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Diplomacy and the Conflict in Kosovo — Notes on Threats and Fears *

Zlatko Isakovic

Institute of International Politics and Economics
Belgrade, Yugoslavia

International Studies Association
40th Annual Convention
Washington, D.C.
February 16–20, 1999


The aim of the paper is to elaborate on the actual and possible roles for diplomacy in the conflict resolution process in Kosovo. The first part of the paper will be devoted to an analysis of the Kosovo conflict; the second part attempts to present the main diplomatic activities undertaken after its escalation; and the third part provides conclusions on the diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict and offers some suggestions on its future development.


The Conflict

The violent conflict escalation that started in Kosovo 1 at the end of 1997 or beginning of 1998 is the third since the end of the Second World War, the second since Tito’s death in 1981, and the first since the establishment of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY, consisting of the republics Serbia and Montenegro) in 1992. Previous escalations (in 1968 and 1981) were suppressed. The main participants in this escalation are, on one side, the Serbian police and Yugoslav Army and, on the other, the so-called “Kosovo Liberation Army” (KLA, or — in Albanian — Ushtria Çlirimtare e Kosovës: UÇK).

Since the break-up of the Second Yugoslavia “a combination of repressive measures by Belgrade and a campaign of non-violent resistance by the Kosovar Albanian leadership kept a lid on unrest for nearly eight years”. This “delicate balance” was seriously upset, according to one version, when, on 28 February 1998, “Serbian authorities launched the first in a series of large-scale offensives against the ethnic Albanian population — ostensibly directed at militant separatists — which by mid-July had left some 400 dead and forced tens of thousands more to flee their homes and villages. Kosovo’s Serbs, in turn, have increasingly come under attack by Albanian irregular forces” (Caplan, 1998: 475). Another version, which says that the militant separatists started the escalation two months earlier, could be supported by the fact that KLA celebrated the first anniversary of its struggle in December 1998. In any case, it was a confirmation of a conclusion reached in 1997 that “the Serbs and Albanians have proved that they themselves are unable to start and sustain a process towards conflict-resolution and reconciliation”, and “international attempts, lacking analysis as well as strategy, have failed, too” (“Kosovo — Why it is serious...”, 1998). The escalation reached its peak in summer 1998, since which time there seems to have been a tendency towards a reduction in the conflict, with some exceptional periods and moments. There are also signs that a new escalation has already begun or will begin at the end of the winter of 1998/99 or the beginning of spring 1999.

The main political actors obviously expressed political aims that could not be simultaneously achieved and as such could be qualified as mutually exclusive. Kosovo’s autonomy had been sharply normatively reduced and practically revoked after the Albanians, who formed a majority in Kosovo and a minority of the Serbia’s population, 2 elected their own multiparty parliament, which proclaimed an independent “Republic of Kosova” (recognized by Albania only) in 1990. One year before that Slobodan Milosevic went to Kosovo and promised the Serbs that nobody would beat them again. The declaration was confirmed by a referendum organized clandestinely a few days later (see Burns, 1992; Sekelj, 1993: 205). The whole endeavour was later described as “a historical moment of panic” (see “Time to try true nonviolence...”, 1998).

At the beginning of the latest escalation the political leadership of Serbia (of which Kosovo forms a part) favoured maintaining the status quo in terms of Kosovo’s status. In that way, the government of Serbia could attempt to retain power over its whole territory by means of state centralization, political and propaganda pressures, and repression of divergent policies. Albanian political leaders responded by establishing parallel or alternative quasi-state agencies (police, schools, health-care institutions, elections etc.). Neither private nor state schools were allowed to introduce subjects such as peace education and conflict understanding (see a proposal for the institutionalization of peace-related teaching in regions of conflict “Peace Proposal...,” 1998).

The conflicting parties also had incompatible attitudes and behaviour, and both concentrated in the first place on achieving their political aims. In January 1999 the reduction or revocation of Kosovo’s autonomy by Serbia in 1990 was interpreted as triggering the Kosovo problem “by abridging or taking away rights that the Kosovar Albanians had” (Pentagon Spokesman’s Regular Briefing Excerpts, 1999). But according to the Serbian government, it was KLA terrorism that had triggered the problem. Both sides agreed that the best option was a political, i.e. diplomatic, solution. In addition, their conflicting attitudes and perceptions had an emotional dimension (feelings of anger, mistrust, hatred etc.) as well as a cognitive dimension: maintenance of certain stereotypes and beliefs regarding the opposite side).

Because of the various features mentioned above, the situation in Kosovo could be defined as a conflict in the classical meaning of the term created by Michell (see 1981: 29). As has been pointed out, one should resist the notion that conflict behaviour is always something that should be prevented — even though it must go without question that conflict in the wider sense of the term should be avoided (Wiberg, 1998: 176). But thanks to the ethnic differences of the sides (in the first place, in their languages, myths and shared memories of common origin and ancestry, state traditions and religious affiliations), the conflict has an obvious ethnic nature.

The collapse of the Second Yugoslavia (SFRY) could be seen, on the one hand, as an event caused, at least predominantly, by the local power-thirsty élites, while the international community was merely “caught by surprise,” behaving as a “powerless spectator” or a “confused participant”. But there is also another explanation that focuses on the “hostile external world powers” as the sole culprits, and at the same time downplays the responsibility of the local actors. The ex-Yugoslav multiethnic society represented a hybrid, combining pre-existent integrative forces (ties of more or less similar ethnic origin, language and culture, a relatively high number of interethnic marriages, existing in a continuous geographical and economic space) as well as disintegrative forces (different cultures and religions, a cursed history, constituent nations belonging to great rival empires and churches that “eternally” divided and regrouped them etc.). The country was called “a Balkan colossus with one iron and one clay foot”.

Initially, all the Yugoslav nations passionately attempted to unite into one state, but at the same time they had further aims (First Yugoslavia was created in 1918 on the basis of a major misunderstanding: the Council of Croats and Slovenes wanted a confederal Yugoslavia (a partnership of equals), but Yugoslavia was established by Serbian King as a unitary country (in which the Serbs could fulfil an old dream: that of all Serbs being united within one state). The tensions between these two visions were sharpened by Serbian centralizing tendencies and Croat tactics of political obstructionism to expand their autonomy in the face of what many Croatians felt as Serbian colonization. The more that the Serbian political élite (which cherished the self-image of being the Yugoslav Piedmont) saw itself as a political ruler in the centralist state, the more Yugoslavia represented for radicals in the Croatian and Slovenian political élites just a transit station to independence and vice versa.

The dual forces moved the institutional organization from one extreme to the other. One kind of extreme was the rigidly centralized order, which culminated in the 1929 King’s coup and later dictatorship and Tito’s authoritarian supranational rule, especially during the first two decades after the Second World War. An opposite kind of extreme led to the creation of Banovina Croatia (an “embryo of confederation”, established in 1939) and to the 1974 constitution. In the Second World War the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was shattered to pieces (into satellite states under fascist tutelage) and drawn into civil war (partially similar to those of the 1990s).

The “iron hands” (of both the King and Tito) over Yugoslav society produced a general sense of national deprivation which, by a curious twist, was not imputed to the authoritarian style of rule but to the hostility of other nations, and this helped to generate the rebirth of nationalist movements. The integrity of communist Yugoslavia (though its communism was called “liberal” or “communism with a human face”) was maintained by Tito’s arbitrary power, but this “glue” that held the federation together was dissolved with his death.

Despite the politically disputable redistribution of income, which used to exist within the Second Yugoslavia, the income per capita proportion between the comparatively well developed Slovenia and the underdeveloped Kosovo increased from 300% in 1947 to 500% in 1965 and 800% in 1989. The leaderships of the republics whose levels of development were higher than the Yugoslav average were of the opinion that they were over-subsidizing the less developed parts of the state just as those that were receiving insufficient support complained about receiving too little and of falling further behind more developed parts of the state. When the redistribution of income from the west to the south of the country was reduced in 1965, it did not satisfy the two more developed western republics. Serbia, on the one hand, did not want to be a contributor but a receiver (which it would have been according to statistics), and, on the other hand, was accused of unfairly extracting some part of the aid in the process.

The Yugoslav foreign debt increased rapidly during the last decade of Tito’s life, when it reached more than 20 billion dollars. After his death neither the republics nor the federal government were able to cover it, and at the same time internal economic disintegration set in. This was the beginning of a long-lasting economic and political crisis: during the 1980s accelerating inflation and unemployment — as well as several aborted cures — sharply decreased average real income. Citizens were abandoning their urban jobs for family farms and market operations to make ends meet, and the whole economy suffered. Politicians who belonged to various republics and/or ethnic groups started to blame each another for misused capital received from foreign sources. It would have been surprising if political radicalism had not emerged; the only open question was what kind of radicalism would be predominant: left-wing, right-wing, populism, nationalism or a combination of all these? (See Wiberg, 1993: 95.)

As a result, two blocs with irreconcilable goals were established: the federal (centralist) bloc (Serbia and Montenegro) versus the confederal (secessionist) bloc (Croatia, Slovenia, and later Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina). The Serbian élite was insisting upon the legitimate right to the defence of territorial integrity (inviolability of borders) and sovereignty of FRY, while the opposite bloc was firmly requesting the legitimate right to self-determination. In addition, the distinct social profile of the élites in FRY after Tito’s death, their authoritarian spirit and inability to compromise, deeply contradicted the multiethnic composition of the society.

The main mistake of the European Community and other international (external) actors seems to be the fact that the recognitions of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina were given before the minority rights of ethnic Serbs were assured (at the beginning of the conflict the Serbs only demanded some kind of cultural autonomy in Croatia and the cantonization of Bosnia and Herzegovina).

After Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina became independent states, these positions were reversed: now ethnic Serbs were insisting upon the right to their own self-determination and governments in Zagreb and Sarajevo — and upon the right to the defence of the integrity and sovereignty of their newly established countries. However, when territories are shared by mutually contesting ethnic groups, self-determination as well as defence of the territorial integrity of one can be achieved only to the detriment of the other. The recognition of both rights to smaller and smaller units leads to the total dissolution of a society, while an attempt to prevent this danger — once the process has been ignited and precedents made — leads to conflicts at every level of secession.

While the Yugoslav élites were more or less united, it was possible to base legitimacy on the Yugoslav peoples’ brotherhood and unity policy. However, when they split up in January 1990, the élites focused on exploiting national hatreds for the same purposes. Therefore, when these conditions were fulfilled, the “furies” of the Second World War were rapidly “revived” and again used in the power struggle. Politicians stirred ethnic hatred, thinking they could control it and the whole situation, but the hatred started to control the politicians. In addition, this mass intoxication created social and psychological conditions for the good people (the “us” group) to act badly towards the bad people (“them” group), culminating in crimes against civilians, the wounded, war prisoners and other categories protected by international humanitarian law, without the problems which conscience can pose in the process.

A third explanation is that the Yugoslav crisis is principally a result of the conflicts of the different identities and/or of mass movements, and that politicians, i.e. national leaders within such circumstances, simply try to protect their nations, posturing as their fathers or taking care of their societal security and national state security. According to this type of explanation, politicians — or at least some or most of them — are not power-thirsty, but are scrupulous individuals who honestly serve their nations. Doing that, they — among other actions — intend to help their nations to come to terms with their own history, wherein can be found national treasures that are not just important as historical values, but can also teach them lessons that can be applied to the present.

However, history, cumulatively subjected to subjectivist and pragmatic criteria within a conflict situation, can in some interpretations be a very rich source of ‘reliable’ material for creating a desired image of one’s own ancestors and, indirectly, of one’s own descendants, who thus simultaneously become creators of history, as well as of other contemporaries belonging to the same nation, tribe, family or other social group. The more one goes back into the past in this way (which often implies access to less comprehensive or reliable data, which cannot be verified by using more reliable sources), the greater the conviction of one’s own perfection and, therefore, supremacy over others. Almost all ethnic and other groups can find in their recent or distant pasts a clearly positive and monumental feat which they can elevate to such a degree — often with the help of propaganda — that it overshadows other (mis)deeds (for more details see Isakovic, 1998c: 86).

Nationalist campaigns, however, rarely stop at highlighting the virtues of the nation or the qualities that can be represented as such. In order to improve “our” image, nationalist ideology advocates frequently try to disparage the environment, by vilifying their rivals (who may already be enemies) and “their” side, which is inferior to or at least less perfect than “our side” is. This is the point where chauvinism steps in. Their goal is to present the identities of one or more other nations in as bad a light as possible, to bring their faults to the fore and suppress or simply forget their virtues, or preferably turn them into faults. In extreme circumstances, the members of the rival nation should be proclaimed inhuman, satanic beings, which is why the process was named demonization. Once politics, ideology and history unite to achieve national and similar political goals, particularly in offering an ideological interpretation in order to win a power struggle, it is relatively easy to enter the circle of control which George Orwell described in his negative utopia Nineteen Eighty-Four in the Ingsoc party slogan: “Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.”

One should stress that in the “us” vs. “them” duels, the goal is to fabricate large-scale violations of narcissism, which can also be a relevant source of human aggression. Erich Fromm considered that group narcissism plays important roles in social and psychological life as well as in political life. First, this kind of narcissism furthers the group solidarity and cohesion, and makes manipulation easier by appealing to narcissistic prejudices. Secondly, group narcissism can be observed as a remarkably significant element providing satisfaction to the members of the group (particularly to those members who have little other reasons to feel proud and worthwhile). Even the most miserly and least respected member of the group is expected to receive some sort of compensation for the situation he or she is in, by feeling that he or she is part of the most wonderful group in the world. Part of the group’s feeling of narcissism is proportional to the lack of genuine satisfaction in life: social groups, which enjoy life more, are less fanatic than those who suffer deprivation in all material and cultural spheres and lead a life of unquenched boredom. Nurturing group narcissism is very cheap compared with the costs of raising the standard of living: one only need pay the ideologists who coin appropriate slogans while many teachers, ministers, journalists and professors take part in it for free. They are rewarded by the feeling of pride and satisfaction for serving such a worthwhile cause, and by the promotion of their personal prestige and careers (see Fromm, 1973: 204).

The end of the Cold War and bipolarity in Europe reduced the importance of basic geopolitical assumptions underlying the First and Second Yugoslavia as well as its internal cohesion. Disintegration of the USSR and the disappearance of Eastern Europe marked the definitive end of Truman’s (or rather Kennan’s) containment doctrine, while rapid changes in Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Albania and Russia, as well as deepening crisis in the Second Yugoslavia, made it lose the significance of the “symbol of difference in the communist world” which for decades granted it privileged position within the US policy of “differentiation.” When the “Iron Curtain” disappeared, the geostrategic importance of some border and buffer zones — such as the territories of Czechoslovakia and Second Yugoslavia — became much less important than before. Since changes in the USSR have finally marked the end of the “Soviet threat” and bipolarity in Europe, efforts to establish a new international order on the continent, based on the development of democracy and right of nations to self-determination, have started to occupy a central place in the policy of Western countries.

As it turned out, at the time when the Yugoslav conflicts occurred, some important motives had little to do with Yugoslavia as such but resulted from the configuration of international relations that were in an extreme state of flux (mainly due to the dissolution of the Soviet Union). “A ‘New World Order’ had been coined as a phrase, but with little clear content: it might mean American hegemonic leadership or an American position as primus inter pares, but in either cases it remained unclear when and how the United States desired and was inclined to act in ‘European affairs’. (Russia was initially treated as largely negligible, but later become more assertive about its own national interests in Europe.)” (Wiberg, 1994: 237). As the European Community (EC) faced the threat of “renationalization” of its members’ security policy, the interests and national policies of certain members became apparent. Within the EC the standpoint of Germany, which supported the right of Yugoslav republics to self-determination, started to prevail, while within the CSCE a similar position was advocated by Austria and some other Central European countries (for more details see Simic, 1993: 211-223).

The history of the Kosovo conflict started with the arrival of Southern Slavs to the Balkans in the sixth and seventh centuries and their settlement in the area of present-day Kosovo where the first Serbian state was established before the Turks invaded it in the fifteenth century, six decades after the Kosovo battle in 1389. The battle “came to be seen as the cataclysmic event that led Serbs into captivity”. Both sides suffered highly traumatic experiences after 1691 with the moving of several tens of thousands of Serb families from Kosovo and later during the Balkan wars (for more details see Stanovcic, 1988: 24 and 39; Bogdan, 1989: 145); and the withdrawal of the Serbian army over Albanian mountains in the First World War (for more details see Job, 1993: 61-62) etc.

Before and after Tito’s death many Serbs deprived of economic opportunities “found it better to live in Serbia proper”. It was emphasized that “the Albanians have not ‘cleansed’ Serbs out of the province with directly violent means, but the province’s Serb minority has felt anything but welcome and, consequently, decided to leave”. It is also considered that President Slobodan Milo_evi_ became the most popular postwar leader of Serbia thanks to the mentioned fact that — on the 600th anniversary of the battle — he went to Kosovo and promised the Serbs that nobody would beat them again. He also stated that the Serbs “throughout their history never conquered or exploited anybody else” (for more details see Doder, 1993: 15—17).

The First World War and First Yugoslavia had already inflicted mutual and lasting national traumas on the Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo, and the Second World War and Second Yugoslavia added significantly to the traumas. The Albanians were to suffer the increasingly ruthless Serbian occupation of Albanian areas since the Berlin Congress of 1878, followed by Serbian colonization of Kosovo and racist attempts at Serbianization and the expulsion of Albanians to Turkey. Serbian massacres of Albanians occurred during the Second World War and were repeated later. A widespread Serbian version remembers Turks expelling Serbs from Kosovo — their historical heartland (“historical cradle of the Serbian nation” and of the medieval Serbian empire encompassing Kosovo Polje and Serbian cultural monuments such as the medieval churches and monasteries), implanting Moslemized Albanians there. One author concluded that the entire period of Serbian—Albanian relations before the First Balkan War manifested oscillations of alliances, cooperation and more frequent conflicts that primarily had to do with their association against or in the interest of a third party (for more details see: Lutovac, 1994: 143—145; Janjic, 1995: 21). During the Second World War, the Albanian fascist, Balli Kombetar, collaborated with the occupiers against the Serbs, expelling many from Kosovo etc. The idea of a Greater Albania was temporarily realized under Italian and German protection (for more details see Stanovcic, 1988: 24), i.e. during the occupation of Albania, Kosovo and some other parts of Serbia and Montenegro in the Second World War.

As well as in the cases of the other traumas within the Second Yugoslavia (Serbo-Croat and Serbo-Moslem), “most of these perceptions, originating in family traditions or political propaganda, have some historical background, sometimes much; they disagree on how many were killed, to what extent different peoples took part, and whether events were typical or exceptional” (see Wiberg, 1993: 96—98). Furthermore, for such traumas to have existed, it is not so important what really happened as what people “knew” (or believed) to have happened. Many ethnic groups in the Second Yugoslavia, who found themselves historical victims of brutal oppression and even genocide, typically claimed that their own depredations had been maximized, while those of the enemy had been minimized. All sides took the pose of victims rather than offenders, and proclaimed that the accusations against them were exaggerated and unjust; everybody was profoundly convinced that they were more sinned against than sinning . . . (see Doder, 1993: 52—53).

Already by the late 1960s and early 1970s the Serbs had begun to show signs of discontent with the Second Yugoslavia as a solution, blaming it for the “protectorate of provinces over the republic” and the “historic injustice toward the Serbian nation” (see Simic, 1993: 228). Nevertheless, conflict was avoided and solution accepted by the 1974 constitution seemed to be a compromise, which was made as an attempt to satisfy both sides: with the Albanians seeking to establish their own republic on the one hand, and the efforts of the Serbs to keep Serbia in one piece, on the other. Only after Tito’s death did politicians from both sides make it clear that none of them was satisfied with the compromise.

The inability of the federal leadership to find a longer-term political solution to this problem, the bad treatment of Serbs in Kosovo by the local Albanian authorities, as well as discontent with the overall situation in the country were the reasons for the growing disappointment of Serbs with constitutional provisions. Disappointment by the mid-1980s became increasingly visible among Serbian intellectuals, with the media raving about conspiracies everywhere. The cracks in Yugoslavia’s façade were becoming more noticeable, despite Tito’s ritualistic incantation during his life: “Keep your brotherhood and unity like the apple of your eye” (see Job, 1993: 60), and after his death the frequently repeated pathetic slogan: “After Tito — also Tito.”

One author concluded that Kosovo belongs to a group of very complex cases and described it in the following way: “For instance, an ethnic minority in a country inhabits a territory (part of that country) where it forms an overwhelming majority. Then, using its autonomous position, i.e. regional power, this minority (majority in that region) oppresses other ethnic minorities which would otherwise form a majority in the country as a whole. Minority and majority is of course relative, and a lot depends on the level where the counting is done” (Stanovcic, 1995: 15). At the beginning of the 1990s the most popular question — as it was ironically written by a Yugoslav political observer — became: “Why should we be a minority in your state, when you can be a minority in our state?” But that thought understates the ferocious nationalism of “ethnic cleansing”, whose main message is “No minorities at all in my ethnically homogeneous state” (for more details see Job, 1993: 52—53).

From the escalation in conflict at the beginning of 1998 to the informal ceasefire established in October 1998 and re-established by the end of the same year, some 2,000 people, according to some estimates, were killed in fighting in Kosovo. In addition, although one could find different data in different sources, there were a few hundred thousands (non-) registered Albanian and Serb refugees and displaced people in Kosovo, proper Serbia, Montenegro, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and numerous other countries in the world. It has been variously termed a humanitarian catastrophe, disaster or crisis, the fundamental issue of which is the distribution of aid to the displaced persons.

One author considered that the Serbs did not see the logic of the idea or proposal that Serbia should have been obliged to grant the same minority rights to Albanians in Kosovo that Serbia demanded for Serbs in Croatia, as was demanded by Albanians from Kosovo as long as Srpska Krajina in Croatia existed. “A characteristic Serb response is that if Albania demands minority rights for Albanians in Kosovo, then Albania is obliged to grant those same rights to Serbs (and Montenegrins) in Albania, etc.” It was concluded that Serbs only passionately believe and see “enemies hating the Serbs, plotting against them, maligning them in the press, and killing their children” (Doder, 1993: 15). In the case of the Kosovo conflict Albanian separatism could be at least to some degree compared with Croatian, Slovene, Macedonian and Moslem separatism before the disintegration of the Second Yugoslavia. In addition, Albanian separatism in Kosovo and Macedonia could also to some degree be compared with Serbian separatism in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina (although it is not a state, but a union since the Dayton—Paris Peace Accords) and Croatian separatism in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina after its recognition and after conflict between Croats and Bosniacs escalated. The significance of Albanians from Albania for those from Kosovo and Macedonia could be compared to some degree with the significance of Serbs/Croats from Serbia/Croatia for Serbs/Croats from Bosnia and Herzegovina/Croatia. The problem is that members of the above-mentioned nations and many other nations in the region (and elsewhere) have the desire to live together in the same state and try to realize it. Observed from a pragmatic point of view, it is not important how such a desire was originally conceived.

One could conclude that the present view as well as a historical perspective both allow the conclusion to be drawn that it can theoretically qualify as an ethnic conflict. Thanks to that, the Kosovo conflict can — at least to some degree — be compared with the conflicts in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and in several other Balkan and other states.



On 9 March 1998, after the beginning of the conflict escalation, the Contact Group — and, on 31 March 1998, the UN Security Council — sent threats of new sanctions on Serbia if the Belgrade government did not withdraw its special police units and cease action by the security forces which was affecting the civilian population in Kosovo (Resolution 1160). The authorities in Belgrade and the leadership of the Kosovo Albanian community were called upon “urgently to enter without preconditions into a meaningful dialogue on political status issues”, which would include “the participation of an outside representative or representatives”.

The Albanian side did not respond to the series of invitations for negotiations; instead they insisted that they were only prepared to discuss independence and demanded an outside mediator. In rejecting the second condition, the Serbian side were able to use as an excuse the result of a referendum held in spring 1998 in which a great majority of the participants — fearing influence coming from an unfavourable international community — refused the participation of foreign representatives in negotiations on Kosovo. In a similar way to that of Serbian leader Milan Martic during the war in Croatia, a KLA member stated that negotiation was betrayal. The KLA’s negative attitude towards negotiation and the threats to those leaders of Albanian political parties who dared to sign any agreement except the one on Kosovo’s independence, as well as the Serbian side’s refusal to negotiate with representatives of KLA (because it was perceived as, and called, a terrorist organization — see Terrorism in Kosovo and Metohia and Albania..., 1998) resulted in only a couple of contacts between the two sides.

These contacts, however, could hardly qualify as diplomatic meetings as they were held between the sides that, at least formally, belonged to the same state although some of the Albanian parties and/or leaders continue not to recognize Serbia and/or FRY as their own state.

Many more activities were practised at the international level, i.e. between each side in the conflict and foreign representatives, ambassadors, envoys, etc. as well as within international organizations (in the first place in the UN, OSCE, NATO, etc.) and the Contact Group. When the results of secret diplomacy are researched, despite the research efforts (which do not have to be (completely) futile), researchers never know whether they have discovered the whole truth or whether there is something that still to be discovered.

The international community, at least rhetorically, obviously does not accept the status quo option (which is the major goal of the Serbian party) nor the secession option (which is the major goal of the Albanian party), which manifest in repression as well as terrorism in Kosovo. 3 Support for the territorial integrity of the FRY is probably motivated more by peacekeeping, which was aimed at Macedonia, than by support of the Belgrade government’s stands in the Kosovo conflict (for more details see Isakovic, 1997c). Certain expressions of sympathies for the KLA were probably not motivated by sympathy for its struggle, but by antipathy for the Belgrade government which accumulated before, during and after the wars in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina. One author considers that from 1992 to early 1998 the international community was sending message to the conflict parties in Belgrade and Pristina: “no violence and no unilateral change of international borders,” but also no prolongation of the status quo that is full of tensions. Instead of all that, the community suggested “internal self-determination for the Albanians and the preservation of the territorial integrity of the FRY”. However, “neither part of this message provided common ground to the parties in a conflict so asymmetric as the Kosovo one”. The problem lay in the fact that “on both sides there were and still are actors prone to using violence to achieve their political aims or to stay in control; a majority of the Kosovo Albanians is undoubtedly in favour of independence and thus of creating a new international border between Kosovo and the FRY; and a majority of Serbs favours the status quo in Kosovo” (Troebst, 1998: 111—112).

In 1992 and 1993 American Presidents sent warnings to the Belgrade government that any expansion of the war into Kosovo would lead to intervention (see Caplan, 1998: 753). The warnings as well as the development of the Kosovo situation (at the first place a statement by KLA spokesman Jakup Krasniqi that KLA’s goal was the unification of all Albanians in the Balkans, 4 ) attracted attention and revived fears in neighbouring countries and the international community that a violent way of resolving the Albanian question could initiate a chain reaction of escalation of violent ethnic and territorial conflicts in the Balkans, which would spill over to engage — besides FRY and Albania — Macedonia, Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey. Any side’s success in such a conflict could easily have the appearance of a Pyrrhic victory, and survival of the Macedonian state could be seriously questioned (for more details see Wiberg, 1993: 105). Such a fear has probably motivated the UN to send UNPROFOR and later UNPREDEP peacekeepers, and also prompted the OSCD to send their own mission to Macedonia although one author considers that aggression by Serbia in Macedonia was a completely unlikely event (“The Kosovo War...”, 1998).

The escalation mentioned above could at least spoil relationships and reactivate and escalate conflicts between Serbs and Croats, Serbs and Bosniacs and maybe Croats and Bosniacs in Bosnia and Herzegovina (for more details see Isakovic, 1998b). Among other disastrous results, elements of these chain reactions could cause the (repeated) movements of large segments of these populations and their migrations first to neighbouring and later to mainly Western countries.

Similarly to the cases of wars in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, there were several warnings on the possible outbreak of war in Kosovo. In 1997, for instance, one author, analysing more than ten theoretical options for a solution to the conflict, concluded that armed conflict was desired neither by the Serbian nor the Albanian side (except by extreme forces) nor by most powerful members of the international community. However, the author concluded, “it is unfortunately a very probable scenario if the Kosovo problem should be irresponsibly treated by either side”. International community has the role of the “‘main fuse of the electric circuit’, connected with Kosovo” by offering its good services and “by making it clear to both sides what ways (autonomy within the FRY) and methods (dialogue) are feasible”. In this area peace will depend in the first place “on the resoluteness of its most powerful members”, and a settlement of status of Kosovo “will primarily depend on the political wisdom” of the Serbian and Kosovo Albanian leaders. One could add to the quoted text: the diplomatic capabilities of all actors as the second basis for future settlement of the status. However, neither wisdom (as it was concluded, “numerous historical occurrences in the past in these parts and especially the most recent connected with the breakup of the SFRY, have, unfortunately, shown political wisdom to be more of an ideal than a reality”) nor capability are widespread phenomena in the area. “One can, therefore, not deny the possibility of its solution through armed conflict” (Lutovac, 1997: 13-14).

One author theoretically concluded that security must be maintained not only by armaments and soldiers, but also by diplomacy and the procedures associated with conflict resolution. It consists of “changing reality (by reducing scarcity or changing the causal links), changing the demands of the actors (by compromise, horse-trading, persuasion, or sheer manipulation), or both, so that a distribution of values is found that is subjectively acceptable to both of the actors and can therefore be agreed to”. The resolution could be achieved by the actors themselves or by different kinds of mechanisms for conflict resolution and intervention by third parties (see Wiberg, 1998: 178-179). After the intensification of Albanian terrorism as well as Yugoslav/Serbian repression during 1998, it seemed that the majority of the most powerful members of the international community still supported the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the FRY, and not necessarily in all cases of Serbia. The community adds at the same time that the Kosovo problem has become a regional security problem, which probably means that the support will not last forever nor can it be assumed as guaranteed no matter what happens. However, it is considered that the threats and statements of the EU and some other actors were not focused on the problems, but on the actors, and that some other statements gave even more reason for concern. “They speak the language of power and violence, not of understanding and dialogue” (“Kosovo — Why it is serious...”, 1998).

The community could recognize Kosovo as an independent state or its unification with Albania if the escalated conflict spills over or the community predicts such a possibility as an actual threat to international peace and security in the region. This, in fact, constitutes a threat to Belgrade, as a result of the fact that “Milo_evi_ and the international community have a common interest ... in defeating the forces of militant separatism in Kosovo”, but “they disagree about the means to be employed and the framework of a possible solution”. The scope for any compromise (autonomy for Kosovo which is what the international community has resolved to achieve) has been narrowed by the radicalization of the Albanians (for more details see Caplan, 1998: 755).

A secession of Kosovo “will serve as a positive example for the numerous self-determination movements bent on separation elsewhere in Europe”. An exception is allowed by Caplan in cases in which “a minority is subject to brutal discrimination by the central authorities and has no recourse to democratic means of redress”. In cases like these, “the international community’s unyielding opposition to secession may only reinforce an unjust status quo”. Thus, “to signal support for secession, or at least to indicate a willingness to consider the option, is not to offer succour to secessionist everywhere but to put repressive regimes on notice that the cost of violently suppressing the right to self-determination may be very high”. As the author realizes that “such an approach is obviously at variance with the historic presumption in favour of the inviolability of international boundaries”, he concludes that “at a time when, for a variety of reasons, the territorial stability of state jurisdictions can no longer be taken for granted, perhaps a reconsideration of the dominant paradigm is in order”. Finally, “partition or independence for all of Kosovo may not be the best solution to the conflict, particularly if neither option can be achieved without provoking significant violence or without undermining regional stability”. In addition, “perhaps a way can be found to make autonomy palatable to the vast majority of Kosovar Albanians and also to guarantee its proper functioning”. However, “if the Albanians’ determination for independence cannot be sublimated or if Belgrade’s granting of autonomy is used as a cover for Milo_evi_ to pursue his campaign of violence, then the international community’s persistent opposition to any adjustments to Yugoslav boundaries could prove to be a prescription for further tragedy” (1998: 755, 760 and 761). If, after reading the quoted text, it seems that, in Kosovo (and maybe around it) all diplomatic and other roads lead to the violence, one cannot avoid the open question: is it at all possible — and is so, to what degree — that what actually is violence, or what is perceived as violence, can be eliminated by yet more violence or by what is perceived as more violence?

At the beginning of winter in 1998 Prof. Håkan Wiberg concluded that the West was giving out mixed messages: on the one hand it was saying that it did not support an independent Kosovo, but at the same time it was preventing FRY from using its sovereign rights in Kosovo. Dr. Jan Øberg has concluded that it is a tragic truth 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”. Statements issued by Western leaders and their representatives tend to focus on the actors instead of the problems, whereas “statesmen wanting to prevent violence would address the problem and ask: how can we help solve it?” It was stressed that “by attacking the actors of the conflict, the statesmen help solidify locked positions and harden the attitudes of the actors”. There is even more reason for concern when the Chairman of the US House International Relations Committee “talks about sanctions, sending ‘NATO and UN troops’ to the region and supports ‘independent Kosova’”. It was concluded that the language of power and violence instead of understanding and dialogue was likely to harm the Albanians in Kosovo (“Kosovo — Why it is serious...”, 1998).

One author considers that “an effective ceasefire may require an extensive and extended military presence on the part of the major powers.” He notices that “there is little evidence, however, to suggest that the international community is inclined to establish yet another protectorate in the Balkans along the lines of the Dayton-mandated administration of Bosnia” (Caplan, 1998: 758—759). Although it seems that the situation changed at the end of January 1999, there is strong evidence that the Belgrade government would be opposed to such an arrangement, except in a situation in which its forces would be in a very bad position. Milosevic “may need the threatened or actual use of international force so that he can put the blame on the West and claim that Kosovo was not ‘lost’ by him but ‘taken’ from Serbia” (Caplan, 1998: 759).

A situation that was perhaps similar occurred during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina: because previous peace plans as well as a few proposals and offers were not accepted, in 1995 the Serbs from Bosnia and Herzegovina controlled more than 70% of the territory of the country. Their leadership agreed to reduce their share of the territory to 49%, but it seemed that they were hesitating too long for the promise to be fulfilled. According to one hypothesis, bombardment of territory controlled by the Serbs was necessary from the point of view of the international community (the purpose of which was to force the Serbs to carry out their promise), and also in a way from the Republika Srpska government’s point of view (the purpose of which was to find a good enough reason or argument for the withdrawal of the Serbs from the territory, without that act being perceived as cowardly). Thus from 30 August 1995, for two weeks, some 3,000 NATO sorties bombed the Bosnian Serb infrastructure, principally to enable the armed forces of Croatia, Croats from Bosnia and Herzegovina and also Bosniacs forces to make territorial gains from the Serbs (for more details see Isakovic, 1998b: 71—72).

While the KLA threaten Serbs with the intended separation of Kosovo from Serbia and FRY, the political organizations of Serbs in Kosovo are preparing, at least rhetorically, a programme that is similar to the one created by Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina: “If Kosovo separates, we will also separate from it; if it gets autonomy, we will demand an autonomous position too, etc.” The mistake of the EC and other external actors (including the premature recognition of Bosnia and Herzegovina and to some degree Croatia) has not been repeated in the case of Kosovo Albanians at least until now. Albanians made the same mistake as the Serbs from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in starting the struggle for liberation before it was possible for them to expect to achieve any recognition of the results of their struggle in the relative near future. In that way, it could be proved again that international and other exogenous conditions matter.

According to some interpretations, as the war situation was noticed but not declared, the President of FRY — as the President of the Supreme Defence Council — was granted an exceptional mandate to negotiate a peace agreement. The officially unpublished agreement created by President Slobodan Milo_evi_ and US envoy Richard Holbrooke, which — according to official statements — is harmonized with the Constitution of Republic of Serbia and FRY, has several components (Milo_evi_, 1998: 12 and 17).

  1. The only acceptable means for reaching any lasting, just and humane solution for all unresolved issues is a political approach and a peaceful solution to the problems in Kosovo, achieved through dialogue.
  2. Violence and terrorism must be stopped immediately as they are an inadmissible means and contrary to all international norms.
  3. The territorial integrity, sovereignty and internationally recognized boundaries of the FRY must be respected by any solution, in full compliance with the basic principles of the UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act and the Paris Charter of the OSCE.
  4. Full respect for the equality of all citizens and national communities in Kosovo should be the basis for the solution. Full affirmation and equal treatment of their national, confessional, cultural values and historic patrimony should also be guaranteed.
  5. The Kosovo’s future lies in peace, equality, integration, economic prosperity and free and common life, and not in ethnic, confessional, cultural or any other type of division and isolation.
  6. The legal arrangements that establish self-governance of Kosovo and the legal frameworks of Serbia and the FRY will be harmonized and be in accordance with international standards and the Helsinki Final Act.
  7. Democratic self-governance of citizens in Kosovo will be provided through assemblies, executive and judicial organs of Kosovo. Within nine months, free and fair elections will be held for Kosovo authorities (including ones at the communal level). The OSCE is invited by the FRY Government to supervise those elections to ensure their openness and fairness.
  8. Additional rights shall be granted to members of the national communities, in order to preserve and express their national, cultural, religious and linguistic identities in accordance with international standards and the Helsinki Final Act. The communities shall be legally equal and their additional rights shall not be used to endanger the rights of other national communities or other rights of citizens.
  9. Police under local-communal direction will be established in the context of the political settlement for Kosovo, which will devolve many responsibilities to the communal level.
  10. No one person will be subjected to prosecution in state courts for crimes related to the conflict in Kosovo excluding crimes against humanity and international law as set forth in Chapter XVI of the Federal Penal Code. Complete unimpeded access for foreign (including forensics) experts, along with state investigators, will be allowed by the State in order to facilitate full transparency.
  11. With the aim of extraordinary mitigation of the punishments, the competent organs shall re-examine the sentences of the sentenced members of the national communities in Kosovo and Metohija for politically motivated criminal offences.
It seems that point 4 and some other terms of the agreement were designed to allow the Kosovo conflict to begin to be resolved by ensuring the rights of minorities before the rights of the Albanian majority could be ensured. In that way one could avoid a mistake similar to those made by the recognition of Croatia and particularly Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, the Albanian side was not fully satisfied with the agreement (see Milo_evi_, 1998: 13).

A timetable was also to be agreed by 14 October including the following: an agreement on the status of the international presence, including verification, 5 OSCE etc. (by 19 October 1998); the completion of an agreement on the core elements for a political settlement in Kosovo based on the paper proposed by the Contact Group of 2 October 1998 (by 2 November 1988); the completion of election rules and procedures (by 9 November 1998). An air mission, composed of NATO and Russian non-combat planes, and the OSCE Verification Mission were supposed to control implementation of the agreement (“Dogovor Milo_evi_a i Holbruka”, 1988). In practice, the OSCE verifiers also became mediators in releasing kidnapped people in Kosovo and at least in some cases probably exchanging them for arrested people.

In February 1998 the USA and United Kingdom unilaterally threatened military strikes against Iraq without a UN mandate, which they finally put into action in November of last year. The next cases were in August 1998, when the USA struck against the terrorist camps and chemical weapons plants in Afghanistan and Sudan, and Turkey made repeated invasions of Iraq. In October—November, after a massive military build-up, NATO unilaterally threatened military intervention in FRY. This was done with the purpose of enforcing FRY’s compliance with NATO’s interpretation of UN Security Council Resolution 1199 (1998) despite the fact that two permanent and several ordinary members of the Council were opposing the use of force (see Møller, 1998b: 3).

Fighting has stopped and a massive pullout of a part of the military and police forces has taken place. The KLA have moved swiftly back into areas vacated by the army and police. Since the KLA were not consulted in detail about the withdrawal agreement and did not sign it, its members felt free to accept or ignore its provisions as it suits them (see “Shape News”, (1988a). A few days after the withdrawal of the police and army started and refugees began to return to their homes in Kosovo (see “Shape News”, 1988b), the Council of NATO decided to postpone the air strikes for an indefinite time, i.e. to what might be an eventual decision of the Council in case of noncompliance of the Resolution 1199 (1998). However, the question remained as to how the diminished military and police would be able to protect the OSCE verifiers or fight the KLA while fulfilling their other duties in Kosovo.

Some Western politicians and diplomats considered that NATO was authorized to intervene beyond its area for the purpose of neutralizing threats to international peace and security without an explicit mandate from the UN Security Council. By the end of December 1998, NATO headquarters issued a statement urging the parties in Kosovo to maintain the ceasefire and threatening that NATO was ready to intervene if the situation required (Reuters, 1998). One author concluded that NATO and its individual members “appear to be increasingly disposed toward military interventionism” (Møller, 1998b: 3). As journalist Milo_ Milo_evi_ concluded, the idolization of power in that area, observed for such a long time, was having catastrophic political effects (1998: 13) and was the phenomenon that pushed Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo towards the conflict escalation process. Does one meet it again in another form? Using the excuse that President Milo_evi_ “understands the language of force only”, those who were threatening attacks against FRY acted as if they only understood that language. One could conclude with the same old question: who is going to break the circle of threats and fears: the international community and/or the Albanians and/or the Serbs?

One author considers that NATO air strikes alone were not likely to be effective against the KLA nor against the Serbian forces. In the first case, the reason is the guerrilla-like tactics which have allowed the KLA to avoid any easy control by air attack. In the second case, the reason is that the forces are not heavily concentrated and do not have the same fixed positions as those used in the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina (for instance around Sarajevo). “Even if the Serbs could be deterred — by targeting central Serbia, for instance — the major powers would not be loath to inhibit them to the advantage of the UÇK” (Caplan, 1998: 758—759). Thus the US Defense Secretary Cohen’s dilemma emerged on whether the NATO planes were going to become, in effect, the air force of the KLA (Pentagon Spokesman’s Regular Briefing Excerpts, 1999).

Prof. Robin Alison Remington considers that “inevitably efforts to make NATO the morality cop of Western civilization are far more likely to balkanize NATO than put out ethnonational fires in Eastern Europe” (Remington, forthcoming). One should keep in mind that conflict escalation in Kosovo could also be intensified as a result of air strikes or other forms of foreign intervention aimed at the pacification of Kosovo. The escalation could be initiated as a result of, for instance, the possible feelings of the Serbs that for them there is nothing or little left to lose, or of KLA groups or factions that they should use the chance (as they did after the withdrawal), or both. One author stressed that “militarily, with Serbian defence installations destroyed, the Kosovo—Albanian military wing(s) is likely to contemplate re-starting the military activity, alternatively switch to more systematic hit-and-run terror actions. In such a situation, what will NATO/UN do? Deploy troops on the ground? Ask for UN peacekeepers? Permit Serbia/FRY to counteract it again?” (“Questions before bombing Serbia”, 1998). Finally, “however much one may dislike Milo_evi_ and his treatment of the Albanian minority, reaction would, legally speaking, have amounted to an outright invasion of a sovereign state” (Møller, 1998b: 3). One could assume that any foreign intervention within the area could be faced with resistance from the Serbian as well as from the Albanian side.

Although not all authors may agree with this conclusion, in order to respect the norms of the UN Charter and to avoid responsibility for such escalation and for other reasons, the participants in such an intervention should first obtain the authorization of the UN Security Council (this was the attitude of Germany in June 1998). The same could be said for neighbouring and other countries whose airports and other installations and facilities would be used in such an effort. As the UN Charter regulates legal authorization for the use of air strikes and force in general — within existing key elements of the UN legal system and UN world governance — another way to reach the same goal could be to change certain provisions within the UN Charter. Otherwise, the existing international legal system could be seriously violated if the actors who created it do not respect some of its vital elements. Although aspects of this problem, including the ethical aspect, could perhaps be assessed in a different way, this does not alter the legal aspects.

Beside the status of Kosovo there is a procedural obstacle for effective negotiations: the Serbian side has refused the outside mediation demanded by the UN Security Council and the Albanian side. In addition, the Albanian side has been incapable of establishing a delegation for negotiation which would represent the political as well as the military wings of the movement. If within the movement there were established the kind of civil-military relations that are typical of modern democracies, i.e. subjugation of the military sector of government to its civilian political leadership, these wings would not exist as an obstacle to the negotiation process. The problem is much worse if one bears in mind that the two wings have different aims and attitudes not only regarding a final solution to the dispute but as regards the means that should be used to reach the aims and also regarding other issues. The KLA itself seems not to be structured and centralized as an army, but has some three branches of rural groups that cooperate only sporadically and partially. However, it was concluded that “without the UÇK’s support, no settlement is likely to be brokered, and if one were to be brokered without their support it might not be viable” (Caplan 1998: 758).

One of the crucial questions could be: which outside actors could be most efficient in preventing further violent escalation and have the incentive to resolve the conflict in Kosovo while pursuing their national and other interests. Let us assume that some NGOs could offer the requisite knowledge, competence, skills and enthusiasm that could be used in a situation such as this, but do not have the means to realize their ideas, programmes and activities. The involved governments, international organizations and other third parties (NATO, UN, OSCE, Contact Group, etc.) have (at least to some degree or their members have) such sources and means, but are handicapped by the problem of resolving the conflict without involving themselves in it in imposing a solution.

Some of the handicaps were detected and described by analysing the development of the situation during the political process of state disintegration which has often been called the Yugoslav crisis, and one can also define a few characteristics of state engagement. First, democratic states are vulnerable to local and/or foreign political and propaganda pressures linked to conflict. Such vulnerability of the mediator is a temptation for the parties in the conflict; which perceive the situation as a suitable opportunity to wage a propaganda war over the mediator issue. The victory of one party in that war additionally reduces the suitability of the mediator to remain accepted and efficient. The mediator considered vulnerable in the above sense is more likely to allow their initiatives to be conditioned by political and propaganda pressures exerted on them than by the requirements of successful mediation.

It was concluded that in this aspect an East Asian group of countries would have fared better than the EC, because it would have the additional advantage of not being made up either of Catholics, the Orthodox or Moslems. Thus, the countries less vulnerable to local or foreign political and propaganda pressures linked to conflict are more appropriate for the role of mediator. While Orthodoxy and Slav ethnic origins link Serbs with Russians, the Albanians’ religious division creates, in fact, links with the Catholic, Orthodox or Moslem ‘world’. In the case of Kosovo, as local Albanians mostly belong to Moslem religion, these links seem to be the most important. The second most important are the Albanians’ links with Catholicism, since the northern part of Albania adjacent to Kosovo (controlled by Sali Berisha and his supporters) is mostly populated by Catholics.

The propaganda war seems to have been going on since the escalation of conflict began and even before that time. 6 One of its characteristics appears to be that both sides try to distinguish between the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ members of the opposite side: the Albanian side issues statements to the effect that their struggle is not aimed against all members of Serbian nation, but against Milo_evi_’s regime, 7 while the Serbian side distinguished between those Albanians who cooperate with the state and the terrorists who from time to time attack those who cooperate. Political leaders of Albanian political parties in Kosovo are somewhere in between those two groups. One author concluded, “the biased international media coverage has repeated itself; the Serb side (also independent sources such as human rights institutes, independent media and the NGO Serb Media Centre in Pristina) has been largely ignored by leading media such as CNN, the New York Times and even the BBC” (“Questions before bombing Serbia”, 1998). One could mention that the need for avoiding intensive repressive and similar measures against civilians was recommended, and particularly if the measures last continually, according to some estimates, for some two weeks (for more details see Simic, 1993b). CNN is considered by some authors as the sixth informal permanent member of the UN Security Council.

The crisis in the Second Yugoslavia reasserted the view that one of the dangers resulting from intensive propaganda used in psychological war lies in the possibility of political decision-makers themselves becoming prone to accepting the stand that the enemy — whose members their propaganda portrays as people “dishonest and insidious, to say the least, if not inhuman” — cannot be negotiated with, that they must be humiliated and trampled over. On the other hand, the more this propaganda proves successful, the greater problems decision-makers may face when trying to present former enemies as allies. Certain Cold War protagonists encountered this problem when they had to present the Japanese and Germans as allies. The US—Soviet and US—Chinese détentes were similarly burdened by the remnants of the Cold War (for more details see Isakovic, 1998c: 208).

One of the problems also lies in the fact that the enemy, the nation whose members are without exception proclaimed inhuman, as a rule shows a natural, almost instinctive aptitude to unite and increase its resistance. “For this reason, the subtler psychological warfare carefully separates the messages sent to the enemy population from the ones targeting the local population (e.g. the latter will not be conveyed via the media, but through confidential ‘closed’ channels) or draw for the local population a picture of disunity in the enemy camp, which is otherwise its goal.” This action has the advantage of providing greater opportunity for negotiations and other contacts, for an alliance with part of the population, even with the enemy leadership members who have not been utterly vilified (Dimitrijevic and Stojanovic, 1988: 348). Having these theoretical views in mind as well as Serbian propaganda, one can assume that the Serbian side has been preparing a ground for an agreement with the Albanian political parties, especially with some of them who are more likely to accept a solution that could keep Serbia as far as possible in one piece. The KLA is obviously not included in this circle, while the KLA itself is attempting to divide Kosovo Albanians, exorting them not to follow and support their own political parties, but rather the KLA. It seems that in that way the KLA is preparing the ground for gaining legitimacy which would be based on popular support, and not on the results of the election process. Taking part in a future election process could be a viable step to take after KLA eventually gain support.

Secondly, some of the states cannot resist becoming involved in the conflict as mediators although they might be reasonably suspected (even by non-paranoid observers) of having and risking their own interests. In the case of the Kosovo conflict, it seems that the US, Great Britain and some other members of the Contact Group and/or NATO were already suspected in that way by one or both the parties. Serbs’ suspicions were greatly enlarged by the NATO air-strike threats as was the KLA’s — probably by the fact that the international community does not support the separation of Kosovo (nor of parts of other neighbouring countries populated partly by the Albanians). Both sides have interests at stake that inclines them to the theory of conspiracy or the hypothesis on the New World Order and the role of the USA and its allies in it.

Finally, some state mediators did not fulfil the condition of having institutionally unblocked access to the overall knowledge about the specific conflict and its milieu. It was maintained, for instance, that an East Asiatic group of countries would also have been more successful in mediating in conflicts in the Second Yugoslavia than the EC was in 1991 and 1992. The Chinese, Japanese and Koreans at least knew they didn’t know the local circumstances and would therefore hire experts who did (see Wiberg, 1994: 233, 248—250). It was noticed that statesmen and diplomats helped to solidify locked positions and harden the attitudes of the actors in a conflict by attacking those actors. Those who wanted to prevent violence would have addressed the problem and asked how they could help to solve it. In addition to diplomatic and other knowledge and skills needed for the above-mentioned purposes, they would need facts, analyses, and some basic knowledge about conflicts as well as a reasonable amount of understanding of history and psychology before making any proposals (“Kosovo — Why it is serious...” 1998). In the case of the Kosovo conflict, the question of whether current-day mediators fulfill the above-mentioned conditions for their role remains to be ascertained.

It was concluded that “international pressure will play a positive role only if it initiates the creation of authentic democratic potentials” (Lutovac, 1997: 14). Another author considered that “one requirement for a stable peace ... would seem to be the emergence of a new and truly democratic leadership in FRY — one which is respectful of the rights of all its constituent peoples”. He assumed that in that case Albanians would be less categorically opposed to the restoration of autonomy as a solution and concluded that there is no “evidence that the Serbian public is particularly unhappy about the country’s democratic deficit or opposed to Milo_evi_’s Kosovo policy — not yet, at least” (Caplan, 1998: 756).

It seems that the problems with democracy in Serbia and Montenegro, and later the FRY, were generated by various factors including: the relative lack of democratic traditions not only during the communist era but also in previous times; the wars in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina with simultaneous UN sanctions; and the conflict escalation in Kosovo, which brought UN and EU sanctions. Generally, democratization has a potential to help mitigate ethnic conflict. However, in the case of FRY and most of the other successor states such a potential was wasted, as the transition towards democracy produced a fertile ground for ethnic hatred, animosity and the political demands of both internal and external power-thirsty political forces and leaders. The democratic turnabout allowed many ethnic tensions including the Kosovo conflict to surface, but because this same democracy was still young and fragile it had not been able to manage them properly and peacefully. It seems that this thesis has a wider validity in the Balkans, which are known as a focal point of ethnic conflict and which have been traditionally (at least, temporarily) ‘resolved’ through both morally and legally extremely unacceptable options, such as forced expulsion and ethnic cleansing.

Successful democratization needs national unity as a basic precondition, which can hardly be fulfilled due to the existing ethnic conflict, particularly in multiethnic societies. Even in societies that can be considered as democratic ones and with long democratic traditions, escalated ethnic conflicts have lead their parties to restrain democracy and/or reduce democratic principles and human rights, and limit the functioning power of their democratic institutions and processes, including diplomacy although it is known as a less democratic process in comparison with some other state functions. Balkan states are no exceptions in such a situation. On the contrary, restrictions and suspensions seem to be more severe and more durable there. As a rule, ethnic conflicts, and especially escalated ones, have negative impacts on democracy, and at least partly disable the development of the democratization process. The more conflicts, the harder it is to achieve democracy and even more so to experience it (cf. de Nevers, 1993: 31-48).

A fearful situation — which within conditions of ethnic conflicts stimulates ethnonational mobilization, i.e. division — cannot be observed as favourable for the development of democracy. The kind of democracy which might occur within such conditions could be to some degree similar to that which used to exist in some of the old Greek city-states and which was exclusively reserved for the ruling class of citizens, and not accessible for slaves. In the Balkans there are no slaves any more but there are other, national divisions. Within these circumstances, threats — as they generate fears and the “rally-round-the-flag” effect which is also characteristically created by economic sanctions — could be qualified as counterproductive from the point of view of actors who use them as a tool in international relations, and whose purpose might nevertheless be the democratization of threatened states.

Kosovo has been the poorest or among the poorest parts of the Second Yugoslavia and FRY alike. It was affected by poverty (see Danopoulos and Ianeva, 1998) in the most intensive way and this probably contributed to the conflict escalation. The lifting of the outer wall of the UN sanctions is linked with certain acts of the FRY and Serbia authorities, among others, to Kosovo, thus making worse the overall economic and political situation within the FRY, Serbia and probably particularly Kosovo.

In Serbia socio-political cohesion and a higher GNP are also lacking, and these deficiencies have contributed to the nervous way in which the state reacts and sometimes uses repression, even when a goal could be reached by political means in the narrower meaning of that term. However, the more the state uses repression, the more it will be lacking socio-political cohesion and the more it will be ready to use repression, which will bring additional weakness. What can help the Serbs as well as the Albanians in Serbia is a stable and socio-politically united society and state. Thus, external threats seem to be counterproductive in so far as they aim to resolve the conflict and protect minorities. The more outsiders threaten to use force, the more they reinforce the cycle of violence. In that way, nationalists also get what they need, as the threats become valid excuses and reasons for achieving nationalist goals, i.e. (to summarize briefly) isolating their society from the rest of the world.

The process during which FRY as well as most of the other Yugoslav successor states and the many other new states that emerged in Eastern and Southeastern Europe was burdened from the very beginning by historical considerations, frustrations and traumas. Moreover, the sovereignty of some of these states also remained disputable after they achieved independence and international recognition. Due to many internal problems (primarily social, ethnic and religious fragmentation, weak or broken state traditions, a lack of democratic ethos, economic underdevelopment, ethnic conflicts, etc.), these states can be qualified as weak ones in the sense in which this notion is elaborated by Buzan and other authors (see Buzan, 1991: 96—112; Holsti, 1996: 104—108). One of the crucial problems is that the power of ethnic identification is strengthened by the lack of other uniting forces in society (see Vankovska-Cvetkovska, 1997).

Another problem is wider and, perhaps, more important if viewed in the context of the Kosovo conflict escalation. The impossibility of creating (completely) ‘pure’ national states in FRY and many other countries of Central and Eastern Europe, and it seems particularly in the Balkans, ‘condemns’ the members of two or more ethnic groups to live in one state, namely to share these states in a certain way. Therefore, the most important task of FRY and other states in the Balkan region is to acquire such knowledge that is necessary for life in circumstances in which there exist ethnic conflicts, and to face them without using violence. The attempted elimination of ethnic conflicts in the Balkans probably will be a lasting process; the danger is the establishment of undemocratic rule with the aim of maintaining state sovereignty at any cost. Since the Kosovo conflict escalated, Serbs in Serbia have had an increased political cohesion, in the first place thanks to the actions they perceive as threats to their state, while the social component is still mostly lacking. The problem is that a weak state cannot be strengthened by repression, so that the circle is being closed: more repression brings more weakness and — this weakness ‘asks’ for more repression . . .

Therefore, none of the states that fit into the descriptions of weak states can easily solve problems that stem from ethnic conflicts and identification, and from weaknesses in their sovereignty and security; they cannot even be significantly alleviated by (non)admission to membership of any military-political alliance. What they need is the establishment of stable and legitimate institutions, and the endeavour to increase security by expanding NATO deserves attention just because membership in NATO is possible only if the potential member — at least formally — had previously disengaged from conflicts with its neighbours.

Finally, one should mention that the institutionalization of politics, establishing of the rules of the political “game” and the rule of law (instead of rule of parties, and even individuals) should remain the basic mechanisms for solving (which is hard or even impossible to be achieved) or mitigating ethnic and other conflicts (see Stanovcic, 1995a). It is only in such a case that the state itself also becomes a mechanism for limiting conflicts. Switzerland, Great Britain, Belgium, Canada and some other multiethnic states indicate that potentially it is realistic to presume that, at least in the elementary sense, it is possible to create guarantees for peaceful separation from the societies in which ethnic and political divisions had grown so high that they could lead to a questioning of the very idea of the state, its institutions and sovereignty, and thereby its very existence.

The ethnic conflicts in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Northern Ireland or Moldova show that a modern recipe for achieving a more or less successful end to, or merely suspension of, their escalation is that all sides should be given arguments corroborating the claim that their goals have been reached. The facts that Bosnia and Herzegovina is integral and divided into Entities, that Moldova is a federal and unitarian state at the same time etc., shows that the goals do not have to be fully achieved. However, one should create at least the illusion enabling the parties in conflict to claim that they are successful or at least more successful than the other side. That could be achieved, for instance, by creating at least an illusion of an autonomous, federal, confederal or some other status, the extreme being more or less fictional secession. On the other hand, that goal could be reached by simultaneously creating at least an illusion of the country’s preserving its territorial integrity and sovereignty, its unitarian or federal structure, possibly without autonomous units etc. It seems that in both cases it is desirable to ensure more or less active participation of the neighbouring countries, with whose population the minority may be attempting to establish autonomous, federal, confederal or another special status or secession, and with whose population it shares cultural, linguistic, religious or other ethnic features.

This recipe seems to be in accordance with Prof. Wiberg’s attitude that it will be a long and bloody struggle in Kosovo until the perceptions of both sides as to what is possible to reach have converged sufficiently for a compromise to be possible to find (both may well then represent it to their own constituencies as “having won” and in that way save their faces). The recipe is useful to the degree to which it can de-escalate ethnic conflicts. However, it could simultaneously motivate potential or actual parties in such conflicts to opt for escalation, reconcile themselves with it, or even strive for it to at least partly to achieve their goals or have the illusion of having achieved them. However, even in that case, both parties face the risk of losing. Since the Second World War, there have been only a few ethnic or other conflicts in Europe in which one of the parties could be viewed as fully defeated, but such a possibility cannot be ruled out a priori. One wins, but also loses wars and other escalated conflicts.

Majority nations in FRY and other Balkan countries are not going to be secure unless the human and civil rights of the minorities are protected (as much as it is necessary and conceivably at the same time). In these conditions minorities should be deprived only of the right to self-determination or, more precisely, ‘right’ to secession 8 (as that right is commonly interpreted for the Balkans), and majorities should be deprived only of the “right” to jeopardize and violate human rights of minorities that represent some sort of safeguards of minorities’ distinct identity and dignity. 9 In this way, the states in the Balkan region could find a way to keep (protect) their territorial integrity, on one side, and at the same time the individual and collective rights of minorities could be protected in a sufficient (and efficient) way, on the other side; and the Balkans will gradually drop its reputation as the European “powder keg”. For this reason, these countries basically need developed economies and stable systems of human rights protected by law as well as by habits and tradition. The same nations have lived in this area for centuries, waging wars but also being good neighbours, even close relatives, and making mixed marriages too (for more details see Isakovic, 1997b: 35).

It was stressed that “the world has learned its lesson from Bosnia. The international community now knows it must be united, firm and determined from the earliest possible moment in dealing with the Balkans” (International Herald Tribune, 12 June 1998, quoted after Caplan, 1998: 745). However, later it was concluded that, nevertheless what divisions there have been, have sometimes prevented the Contact Group from acting with greater determination” (for more details see Caplan, 1998: 754). One can assume that the diplomatic aspect of conflict development in Kosovo and elsewhere is influenced by two levels of interplay between local or field and main players. Each of them tries to manipulate the other as well as those who participate in their level of development. World players try to pursue interests — which can be described as global, continental or at least regional influences and power — and local self-survival which makes them (especially if they are or just perceive themselves as weaker) search for allies in the world arena. Sometimes, they try to drag the main players into the conflict for the same purposes (the beginning of the First World War after the assassination in Sarajevo seems to be an appropriate example for that), offering advantages, services etc. However, one can hardly be fully sure whether the main players were dragged in by somebody else or whether they dragged themselves in, or whether it was a combination of both (which seems to be the most common case).

Another document that could potentially have a capital significance for the development of the conflict is the Draft Version of the Interim Agreement for Kosovo created by US Ambassador in Macedonia Christopher Hill. An incomplete version of the Agreement (“The Draft Version of the Interim Agreement for Kosovo”, 1998), which is the only version possessed by the author of this paper, is a comprehensive text, stipulating an autonomous status for the province. Kosovo’s status is not precisely defined (it is called by its name without use of an attribute or assignment of its status). Within the whole document, Kosovo is connected mostly with the federal state. There is neither a provision on representation of Kosovo in institutions of the Republic of Serbia nor a provision on Kosovo’s exclusion from the Republic. “The adoption of the (Basic Law) (Constitution) of Kosovo consistent with this Agreement, which shall not be subject to change or modification by authorities of the Republics of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.” One author considers, if Kosovo were to become a third Yugoslav republic and if Montenegro eventually separated from the federation, the Kosovo — as FRY seems to be a politically unstable federation — could (try to) do the same thing.

In 1995 Prof. Vojislav Stanovcic stressed that “for the fruitful consociation and stable democracy, the cooperation between élites of different groups is important (Lijphart), and the possibility that individuals from different ethnic groups, as well as organizations cooperate and affiliate themselves beyond borders of their respective federal or ethnic units (Lipset). The situation in former Yugoslavia and processes in other countries show that political élites monopolize the mediating role between the groups, and reduce the possibilities of direct cooperation between citizens and organizations from the areas they have the control over. It is said that élites support heterogeneity of the society as a whole, i.e. between the ethnic groups, but act very energetically in order to impose homogeneity within the groups they control (Elazar)” (1996b: 68). Within the above-mentioned draft one can identify elements of consociational arrangements, and it seems more or less evident that the previously mentioned possibility for cooperation and affiliation is still lacking. All these handicaps could make Kosovo’s consociational democracy follow the fate of attempts of the same kind in Lebanon, Cyprus and the Second Yugoslavia. For the second Yugoslav state, arranged by provisions of the 1974 constitution (see Stanovcic, 1991), it was impossible to function without Tito, who concentrated power in his hands (more details on consociational democracy Lijphart, 1985; 1995; Isakovic, 1997a).

As noticed by one expert, within the plan there seem to be other potentially questionable or unclear points related to state-security function, military treatment of the territory of Kosovo, judicial and other institutions, proposed decision-making procedure in the Assembly of Kosovo (as is it is not compatible with consociational democracy), terms for appeals, financing of use of additional rights of national communities, etc. As in Kosovo and Macedonia there were disputes on the using of national symbols of Albania(ns) (see more details Isakovic, 1998a), one can suggest that the existing formulation of the right of the national communities to “using and displaying national symbols (as well as the symbols of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Serbia)” should be kept if the intention of the author was that the using of the symbols of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Serbia is not compulsory. Otherwise, the communities could be enabled to use and display their own national symbols together with the other mentioned symbols. In another draft of additional rights of national communities is the ‘Use and Display of National Symbols along with State Symbols of Serbia and the FRY’. 10 As it was concluded, multiculturalism can be observed as a benefit to society, but also as an obstacle and barrier to democracy, in the first place due to a lack of consensus on basic values (for more details see Stanovcic, 1996b: 53—56).

On the other hand, promising elements of the document include the proposed judicial system, and particularly the function of Ombudsman of Kosovo (which could be introduced in other parts of Yugoslavia too); human rights and fundamental freedoms (although one should keep in mind that their implementation could be questionable because of existing national hatreds, partialities etc.), except stressing of the female rights, which seems to be inadequate. Establishing a Joint Council to coordinate activities under the Agreement and to provide an informal mechanism for the resolution of disputes also seems to be a promising idea. Two important annexes (on police and security matters and on financing and other economic issues) are missing.



The political leaders who create the foreign policy of the above-mentioned main actors as well as local actors and others, participating (in)directly in diplomatic negotiations, pursue interests labelled as national or otherwise or what is perceived as the interests of their own countries and those of the international organizations of whom they are members. In this regard, the situation used to be much simpler during previous epochs since diplomacy traditionally used to be among the fields monopolized by sovereign states. It seems that in the twentieth century the situation has changed as the field has been entered increasingly by actors that can be qualified as international (for instance, intergovernmental organizations, like UN), transnational (international nongovernmental or ‘private’ organizations, transnational political movements, religious and economic organizations) etc.

During their histories Serbs, Albanians and other peoples in the area of the Second Yugoslavia were exposed to threats and were the sources of threats for other nations. It seems that many politicians, when faced with diplomatic and other threats (particularly if (perceived as) directed to their political power or position, which can hardly be divided from the state security and/or the national interests), answer by threats almost automatically, thanks to the learned or inherited impulse, inclination, tendency, aptitude, gift or their political instinct. In such situations, they simply do not care for possible direct or indirect consequences and effects. If they cannot threaten the state-source of the threat, they could (try to) threaten its ally or a country which is to some degree protected by the state-source. It is the old principle that “the friend of my enemy is my enemy too”, and “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”. They react in a way described by Erich Fromm who considered that man shares one kind of aggression with animals and that this serves to ensure survival: benign or defensive aggression, which is inherited and disappears as soon as its causes threats to vital interests to disappear (Fromm, 1973: 185). The reaction makes the threats, in fact, in many cases counterproductive in comparison with planned or wished reaction. Thus, when one intends to use threats effectively, one should take care not to threaten interests perceived as vital ones unless one intends to provoke aggression.

One of the conditions for a threat to achieve its goal is that it must be real, i.e. the actions it implies can really incur damage to the other party. A mild or senseless threat is not considered real; neither is a threat identical to a required concession. Thucydides wrote down the articulate answer of the residents of Milos, who Athens demanded should put themselves under its control under the threat that they would be annexed by force if they did not. Even if there is a difference between the requested behaviour and material damage which the party is threatened with, the feeling that succumbing to the demand is humiliating (as opposed to defeat in war) plays an important role in assessing the consequences. Also, harmful consequences of relenting are definite, while one can rarely predict the outcome of a conflict (Dimitrijevic and Stojanovic, 1988: 322; for more details see Isakovic, 1998c: 149). When one decides on using threats against the FRY and probably also the KLA, one should take into account the existence of the above-mentioned political, social and psychological phenomena and features, having in mind that they can influence outcomes of diplomatic efforts as well as the complex communication relationships and political decision-making process.

The diplomatic and some other activities and documents aimed at resolving the escalation of the Kosovo conflict imply that the first preference of the West is a diplomatic solution. While achieving a diplomatic solution would in itself resolve humanitarian problems, the consequences of using force by the West for ‘resolving’ the conflict can be very great and very difficult including those of a humanitarian nature. On the other hand, some kinds of actions aimed at resolving humanitarian problems could have consequences for the political conflict. As a rule, the longer conflict escalation lasts, the worse humanitarian problems become, and a partial solution could be unstable, thus making people suffer more.

One author considers that the Kosovo conflict was not included in the Dayton Peace Accords (except in one case in the final treaty related to preconditions for lifting the FRY’s sanctions) for two or three basic reasons: first, “it was felt that there was simply too much to negotiate already; for that matter, other critical issues ... were hardly addressed at all”. Second, nobody was ready “to alienate Milo_evi_, the ‘peacemaker’ who had forced the Bosnian Serbs to accept the compromises necessary for the Dayton agreement and whose continued cooperation was thought necessary to ensure successful implementation of the accord.” The third potential reason was that since there was peace in Kosovo, “there was no urgent need to deal with the question. In this respect Ibrahim Rugova ... has arguably become a victim of his own success”, reached by nonviolent resistance. “To countless Kosovar Albanians, Dayton had already demonstrated the limits of international support — and, by extension, of Rugova’s own effectiveness” (Caplan, 1998: 750). However, Øberg considers that the League for Democratic Kosova (LDK’s) and Rugova’s policies have been called “Gandhian” by people who do not know much about Gandhi, although there were some similarities. As it was concluded, “for decades Kosovo has been the shining illustration of Gandhi’s famous dictum that ‘the principle of an eye for an eye will one day make the whole world blind’” (for more details see: “Time to try true nonviolence...,” 1998). When threats are answered by threats, they often become counterproductive.

It was concluded that “the most flexible positions adopted by Serbs and Kosovo Albanians on the Kosovo issue are a return to the 1974 autonomy on the one hand and a re-federalisation of the FRY on the other”. However, “an autonomous Kosovo would hierarchically still be subordinated to the republican government”, and “a Republic of Kosovo within a federation would be hierarchically on the same level as the Republics of Serbia and Montenegro (and probably of Vojvodina and Sandzak)”. Yet for Belgrade it is unacceptable to be put on an equal footing with Pristina; and for Pristina it is equally unacceptable to remain under the domination of Belgrade. The other programmes and options are unacceptable to one of the two sides too. In this situation, “for the core question of a future status of Kosovo, no solution is in sight”. It was concluded that “to take out the steam of the Kosovo conflict by a carefully orchestrated carrot-and-stick policy towards Belgrade on behalf of the international community, resulting in a joint Serbian—Kosovo Albanian search for an interim solution and paralleled by a democratisation of the FRY, is the recipe for defusing the Kosovo time bomb” (see Troebst, 1998: 111—116). As both sides have mentioned serious problems with democracy, which seem to be hard to resolve at least as long as the conflict generates the steam, this recipe seems to be imperfect in this regard.

There are several other dilemmas and questions which also seem to be hard to answer:

  1. Which part of the political power will be centralized or geographically located in Belgrade and/or Pristina.
  2. If Kosovo were to be divided, the extent to which one should draw boundaries on an ethnic basis to make the divided parts (almost) ethnically pure without what is called ethnic cleansing.
  3. The third question is related to the formula for power sharing on all or some levels: strict proportion without treshold, which seems to be inadequate for a multiethnic society, or disproportion including even veto power for small ethnic communities.
  4. Whether there should be a state religion in Kosovo as well as in Serbia and in FRY. If the answer is yes, the most numerous religions and religious groups would be favoured; if the answer is no — the less numerous would be in that position. As language cannot be regarded as a private matter (as religion can), Kosovo should be at least bilingual.
  5. There is an open question of whether all Kosovo ethnic groups will take part in the elections which should be organized in the middle of 1999.
  6. The sixth question is related to actors and options. Some options could be viable if the parties agree — if there is trust between the parties, which does not seem to be the case today. For instance, within the power-sharing system the minority could expect disproportional representation if trust is not misused, and the majority could expect a veto power over the minority under the same condition.
Mr. Barney Rubin in a letter argues that in the most pessimistic analysis there are only two options, both of which are unacceptable but are at least possible. First, there could be a Serbian military victory, crushing the Albanians with the complaisance of international forces. Second, the independence of Kosovo could be achieved by the KLA supported by the international community. This latter option includes an international militarily enforced protectorate, which could last for decades, with the purpose of restructuring the politics of the FRY and of making this option possible or increasing the number of possible options (including some form of “enhanced autonomy” for Kosovo while maintaining the territorial integrity of FRY, if not Serbia). As nobody has the commitment to carry that out, the most likely result is an unending war. It is concluded that solutions cannot be imposed without the political or military force to implement them.

One of the major questions is what would any status for Kosovo or any other province, federal unit or state in the world mean if power is eventually exercised by mafias organized around the centres of political power with paramilitaries in the wings? How can FRY be re-federalized if it is not first democratized? Can the model of gradual conflict resolution on which the Holbrooke—Milo_evi_ agreement was based still work after a more violent conflict escalation (like the ones that happened in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina)?

Unacceptable options can become acceptable and vice versa during the bargaining process. The respective diplomacies and politicians of some of the participants use (more) arguments and some use (more) force as an argument. In some situations at least a fragile peace could be achieved by force (as in Bosnia and Herzegovina or Croatia), but it seems to be a more efficient way when (even illusory) arguments in the narrow or proper meaning of that term are used to resolve ethnic conflicts. “Conflict-resolution is not about harming or killing people. It is about killing problems and harnessing the human and circumstantial attraction to violence. Violence is always part of the problem, never the solution” (Øberg, 1994: 140). In the case of conflict in Kosovo the most rational way seems to be, at least theoretically, if all actors, who are not directly engaged in the conflict, play the role of mediator within or as a complex consortium or enterprise, trying to employ their advantages, and to avoid (expressions of) their handicaps and weaknesses or temptations.

In spring 1997 it was conditionally foreseen that eventual war could be limited to Kosovo alone (“which is hardly possible considering the international milieu and the disposition of the powers”). In this case, the possibilities could be, first, “parched country” (similar to the Croatian operations “Lightening” and “Storm” in the Serbian Krajina 11 ), guerrilla resistance or terrorism by the Albanians (if the previous ways prove unsuccessful). Secondly, it is considered that the war would more likely spill over into the wider Balkan region, mainly populated by Albanians, and even further. Thirdly, it was predicted that a conflict of the widest dimensions is not so likely to happen (Lutovac, 1997: 14).

According to TFF’s director Jan Øberg, among the things that can still be done — but only as long as there is no, or limited, violence — are the following:

  1. a hearing of parties in the conflict in the UN General Assembly;
  2. meetings and discussing with groups of Serbs and Albanians;
  3. sending a high-level international delegation of “Citizen Diplomats” to Belgrade and Pristina who would be required to make proposals on the establishment of a permanent dialogue but not on what the solution should be;
  4. putting pressure on the parties to sign a declaration on refraining from the use of every kind of violence against human beings and property as part of their policies;
  5. simultaneous withdrawal of Serb police and Yugoslav military from the region (except what is needed for self-defence along the borders) and disarmament of the Kosovo Liberation Army combined with a “weapons-buy-back” programme;
  6. monitoring of this process by UN civil affairs and civil police, which would also prevent incidents;
  7. “as a vital element in the conflict is underdevelopment, poverty and deepening economic crisis, there is considerable space for economic ‘carrots’”; thus, one can make it known to the parties that international organizations will help them with whatever they need as long as they refrain from violence now and engage in talks;
  8. showing respect to the parties by telling them that the international community will accept any solution they reach voluntarily;
  9. lifting the suspension of the FRY in the OSCE;
  10. taking up initiatives put forward by independent governments like those of the Scandinavian countries and Switzerland;
  11. arranging seminars where long-term solutions can be suggested, analysed and debated;
  12. acknowledging that violence begins when people do not see ideas or ways out or when they are afraid of losing face;
  13. focusing on interests, and not positions, through governmental and nongovernmental dialogues on concrete needs and interests (in education, health, finance, culture, etc.); this should be done “with the common understanding that the problem of long-term status of Kosovo will be more easily solved if the parties have found solutions to pressing issues for the millions of citizens involved, particularly youth”;
  14. establishing a truth commission (as “the situation is already infected with prejudice, racism, hate, propaganda and media blackouts, and the majority of foreign media cover the violence, not the underlying conflict; they often side with the party they sympathise with but seldom analyse the problems that must be solved”);
  15. establishing a reconciliation committee with impartial international organizations and respected international figures (“reconciliation is not needed only after wars: it is much easier to heal psychological wounds when 20 rather than 200,000 have been killed and no material damage has happened”);
  16. establishing an OSCE-like process for the Balkans to deal in the first place with problems of poverty, animosity, misery, human rights violations, refugees, etc.

It was concluded that “there are international ‘national interests’ in all the Balkans. It is time to develop a comprehensive approach through a series of conferences and dialogues” (“Kosovo — What can be still done?”, 1998; Troebst, 1998: 94—96).

It was suggested that, in order to break the deadlock, the best option would be a combination of non-governmental mediation and non-military involvement proposing the establishment of a civilian United Nations, or other international, Temporary Authority for a Negotiated Settlement (UNTANS) in Kosovo. Its aims would be “to facilitate, in a context of order, safety and respect for human rights, a peaceful and long-term negotiated settlement of all conflict issues between Serbia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia on the one hand and the Albanian population in the region of Kosovo on the other”. The proposal suggested, first, that for a period of up to three years the authority shall take over parts of the administration of the territory populated by Serbs and Albanians, and provide a professional negotiation facility.

Secondly, all military and paramilitary forces, which were not deemed necessary for self-defence, should be replaced with civil police and monitors in the territory.

Thirdly, skilled multiethnic and multicultural civil affairs officers should be deployed as well as qualified civilian volunteers from non-governmental organizations to monitor the UNTANS support among the inhabitants, and serve as neutral third-party mediators and instil trust. Among the main tasks of the authority would be peacebuilding, and in the first place teaching conflict understanding, negotiations and reconciliation (see UNTANS..., 1996; Jarman and Øberg, 1998). It was stressed, “this new type of international conflict management is not a protectorate. By refraining from stipulating what the final settlement should look like, it respects the rights of conflicting parties to search for their own solutions. Thus, it is violence-prevention and principled, professional negotiation in one” (“Help Serbs and Albanians...”, 1997). Today there is an open question: is it already too late to try these or similar measures?

According to statistically based predictions, majority nations in this area could become minorities in one or a few decades. Thus it could happen that the Serbs, Macedonians and other peoples in the Balkans — constructing the minority human rights “building” — are making their own future “home”; securing the identities of minorities today, each of those majority nations — at least partly — obtaining future security for their own identity and vice versa. One author has concluded, “as soon as minorities become majorities, new minorities appear. If the present number of nation-states is doubled, the number of minority problems may also be (roughly) doubled” (Eriksen, 1992: 221).

Identities of minority populations will not be secure unless they develop workable cultural, political, economic and other relationships with majority populations. As a loyal minority could expect a present majority to be a loyal minority in the future, minorities must come to see the majority position as their own future position. This means that identity as well as state security is mutual, nowadays and in future (and the roles could be exchanged). It could be concluded that, because within given circumstances security in general exists for all or for nobody, both sides must come to see their security as a function of the other’s side security.

Major problems within the area could be considered not only as related to the constitution or human rights and democracy, but as a fight between the ethnic groups, or rather their political élites who wish to take control over the same territory and resources. This hypothesis stresses a need for the conclusion that the future of the weak post-communist democracies in the region is based on democratic principles in the civilian sector (including procedures for their fulfilment), and sufficient control of that sector over the military sector. Particularly within an environment where soldiers prove their patriotism by their national roots and identities, military leaders should encourage professionalism (see Remington, 1994: 21).

The rule of law is perceived as an elementary condition for the successful consociation of ethnic groups (for more details see Stanovcic, 1996b: 56—62). With that rule (as previously pointed out) multiculturalism could become more of a social benefit, and less an obstacle or barrier to democracy. However, one cannot ignore the fact that today, in both sides involved in the conflict as well as the international community, there seems to be too much attention devoted to the status of Kosovo in comparison with other questions which could also be seen as crucial. Namely, it seems that one should ask what a sovereign and integral Serbia might mean for Serbs as well as an independent Kosova for Albanians if life for both sides were to consist of hate, repression, corruption, fear, massive pollution, mass poverty, illiteracy and misery for future generations? Constitutional and other legal solutions could be very important, but they are not a magic wand that can achieve everything and under any circumstances; they are unable to satisfy all interests and cannot solve many of the economic, environmental, cultural, educational, even political and other problems with which people in the area are faced. As it was concluded, “constitutions of Yugoslavia and Serbia proclaim a large number of rights and freedoms and the principle of the rule of law as one of fundamental constitutional principles. However, too many occurrences show that the reality is not even close to the ideas proclaimed by constitution” (Stanovcic, 1996b: 68). The cases of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia alike seem to be the nearest and best examples to indicate in what direction escalated conflicts could easily lead. Thus the main problems seem to be the lack of the rule of law along with national hatreds, animosities and violence, as well as other problems that have already been discussed.

As was pointed out, “the nation-state may be accused of injustice both if it promotes equality and if it promotes difference. If the state stresses equal rights and duties, minority members may feel that their cultural distinctiveness is not being respected. . . . If, on the other hand, the state stresses cultural differences, minority members may feel discriminated against” (Eriksen, 1991: 222). One could conclude that there is no universal “recipe” or “formula” for resolving problems in majority—minority relations. It seems that governments and diplomats as well as minorities in the whole region are faced with, and are at the same time taking part in, a kind of circulus vitiosus: viewed from one side, the more a minority no longer feels any loyalty to the state in which it has been living, presumably the more repression is used by the same state; but viewed from the other side, the more repression is used the less the same minority is likely to be(come) loyal, and to perceive the legal power (authority) as legitimate, but perceives it as “plain domination” (see Duverger, 1972: 18). Thus the old question remains: who is going to break the circle? The “plain domination” or hegemony and secession are not the only alternatives for achieving it; a proper solution could be somewhere in between (see Stanovcic, 1986a: 850).

In this case as well as in many others, diplomacy itself can be used as one of the means for reaching conflict resolution (giving contributions to resolving the conflict). However, diplomacy could also — thanks to a lack of readiness or surplus of violent capabilities for creating a ‘solution’ (as force is often behind diplomacy) and other reasons — make the conflict harder to resolve and longer to last. In the second case, the violent conflict escalation could spill over to neighbouring areas and states and — among other results — make migrations within and from the region more intensive. In return, it is likely that the diplomatic efforts will become more complicated and with more uncertain outcomes.



The aim of the paper has been to elaborate actual and possible roles of diplomacy in the conflict resolution process in Kosovo. The first part of the paper was devoted to presenting the main elements of Kosovo’s present-day situation and reviewing its historical genesis. Both perspectives — in the author’s opinion — allow the conclusion to be reached that it can be theoretically qualified as an ethnic conflict. It is concluded that, thanks to that qualification, the Kosovo conflict can be — at least to some degree — compared with the conflicts in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and in several other Balkan and other states.

Diplomatic and other political activities aimed at resolving the recent escalation of the Kosovo conflict are reviewed and analysed in the second part of the paper. Particular attention is devoted to diplomatic efforts of the Serbian and Albanian side involved in the conflict as well as of the Contact Group and its members, the UN, and other Balkan states.

It was concluded that in this case as well as in many others diplomacy could be used as one of the means for reaching conflict resolution (giving contributions to resolving the conflict). However, diplomacy could also, thanks to a lack of readiness or surplus of violent capabilities for creating a ‘solution’ (as force is often behind diplomacy) and also for other reasons, make the conflict harder to resolve and longer to last. In the second case, the violent conflict escalation could spill over into neighbouring areas and states and, among other results, make migration within and from the region more intensive. In return, it is likely that the diplomatic efforts will become more complicated and with more uncertain outcomes.


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*: Prepared for presentation at the 40th annual meeting of the International Studies Association, Washington, D.C., February 16–20, 1999.  Back.

Note 1: “Kosova” for Albanians, and “Kosovo” for Serbs. The difference between Kosovo and Kosova is similar to that between Catalonia and Catalunya.  Back.

Note 2: According to the 1981 census, the total population of Kosovo was 1,584,000 of whom 77% were Albanians, 13% Serbs and others, such as Montenegrins, Turks, Muslims, Croats, Romani. The census of 1991 (boycotted by the Albanians) stipulated 1,965.000 of whom 82% were Albanians. One author noticed that “the Albanians have claimed . . . that 250,000 left between 1975 and 1988 and 200,000 between 1989 and 1991, i.e. almost half a million or about 25% of the Albanian population due to ‘ethnic cleansing’, which is considered “a quite bizarre allegation.” It was concluded that “the claim that Albanians make up 90% and that 450,000 have left evidently can not simultaneously be true” (“Kosovo/a — Half Truths...”, 1998; see also Janjic, 1995: 21 and 64).  Back.

Note 3: US Special Representative Robert S. Gelbard declared that the KLA “is, without any questions, a terrorist group” and that the US “condemns very strongly terrorist activities in Kosovo” (New York Times, 13 March 1998, quoted after Caplan, 1998: 753). The UN Security Council condemned “terrorism by the Kosovo Liberation Army or any other group or individual and all external support for terrorist activity in Kosovo, including finance, arms and training” as well as “the use of excessive force by Serbian police forces against civilians and peaceful demonstrators in Kosovo” (Resolution 1160, 1998). Despite that qualification, the KLA has not appeared in the list of terrorist organizations of the American Administration. One reason could be the attitude that “an organization which had some members who committed acts of terrorism was not necessary a terrorist organization” (James Rubin, quoted after Caplan, 1998: 758). In several Western countries KLA has been treated as a guerrilla movement.  Back.

Note 4: In Montenegro there are around 37,000 Albanians, in Macedonia 443,000, in Greece around 50,000 and around 400,000 immigrant workers. The statement was given in an interview with Der Spiegel (published on 6 July 1998). On 11 July 1998 a local newspaper (Koha Ditore) published Krasniqi’s statement that the previous statement may have been misinterpreted or not properly understand (Kosovo’s Long Hot Summer..., 1998; see also “The Kosovo war...”, 1998).  Back.

Note 5: An obvious result of the same agreement was the establishing of the OSCE Kosmet verification mission. Its members are supposed to verify compliance with UN Security Council Resolutions 1160 of 31 March 1998 and 1199 of 23 September 1998 in accordance with an agreement signed between the Yugoslav government and OSCE on 16 October 1998. Some two weeks after the October threats by NATO air strikes, President Milo_evi_, in an interview to The Washington Post, said that Belgrade would regard any intervention on Yugoslav territory of the extraction force in order to salvage OSCE verifiers as an “act of aggression” (1998: 48 and 61; see also NOD & Conversion..., 1998a: 13-14).  Back.

Note 6: In 1995 Prof. Miroljub Radojkovic has noticed that the situation in Kosovo, in comparison with the situation in FRY, was “different, because of repression, for the press there exists mainly in the framework of the secession movement.” The state Radio-Television of Serbia (RTS) center in Kosovo “treated also Serbs as minority and by 1989 it turned entirely to Albanian as language of information — the remaining minorities in Kosovo were completely neglected. After closing RTV Pristina in its old form in 1990, the balance was lost again, this time to the detriment of Albanians. However, because of their boycott this center of RTS is not able to realise??? provided quotas in Albanian language; new subsidies and staff are required.” It was concluded, “it seems that it is convenient for Albanian political parties to maintain such situation as a permanent source of tensions, making use of it as a proof of violation of their human rights” and of the European standards (more details: Radojkovic, 1996: 418).  Back.

Note 7: Unfortunately I was not able to provide a comprehensive survey of propaganda activities on the Albanian side (mainly due to lack of knowledge of the Albanian language and its geographical and social conditions); however, it has been much more possible for me to do so for the Serbian side.  Back.

Note 8: An author suggested that maybe a solution could be found within the scope of the principle “all rights to minorities, excluding the right to secession” (see Glenny, 1995: 57).  Back.

Note 9: As the Balkan region has a long and extensive tradition of minority problems, an author stressed the question: “How can political parties, attempting to bridge ethnic cleavages, find a common denominator of national security that will satisfy the Bulgarian majority and Turkish minority in Bulgaria; Romanians and the Hungarians minority in Transylvania; Serbs, Croats, Muslims, and Albanians in the former Yugoslavia?” (Remington, 1994: 71).  Back.

Note 10: The draft was the outcome of talks and consultations held in Pristina on 18 November 1998 and in Belgrade on 19 November 1998 by the delegations of the Popular Party of Kosovo, the Kosovo Democratic Initiative, representatives of the national communities of Turks, Goranians, Muslims, Romanies and Egyptians, representatives of the Socialist Party of Serbia and the Union of the Yugoslav Left, as well as consultations by President of Serbia Milan Milutionvi_ with representatives of the Serbian Renewal Movement, New Democracy and the Union of Vojvodina Hungarians on 20 November 1998 (for more details see Proposed Agreement on Political Framework..., 1998: 3-98).  Back.

Note 11: In August 1995 Albania’s government and some Albanian leaders in Kosovo protested when several thousand Serb refugees from the Krajina region in Croatia came to this southern province of Serbia.  Back.