|Updated: 06-Dec-2000||NATO Review|
Tens of thousands of Kosovar Albanian refugees return to Kosovo in a 20 km long convoy of tractors and cars, along the narrow road leading from the northern Albanian town of Kukes on 16 June, only days after NATO-led KFOR troops began securing the province.
(Reuters photo - 67Kb)
One reason to consider NATO's air campaign against the Federal Republic
of Yugoslavia a success is the mass return home of the Kosovar Albanian
refugees. No sooner had the first troops of the NATO-led international
security force (KFOR) moved into Kosovo on 12 June than the refugees started
flooding back. By early September, more than 95 per cent of those who
had been driven from the country or displaced within Kosovo had returned
to their homes - a speed of repatriation unmatched in twentieth-century
Yet NATO failed in its declared aim of preventing a humanitarian disaster
- genocide and expulsion - in Kosovo. A military objective of this kind
cannot be achieved by air strikes alone, but only if ground troops are
also used. It is true that the withdrawal of all Yugoslav troops and the
arrival of KFOR created conditions in Kosovo where the effects of genocide
and persecution could be at least partially reversed. Houses, roads and
bridges are being repaired, and those driven from the country have been
able to return. But, the loss of human life is something that cannot be
put right. The fact that thousands of Kosovar Albanian civilians were
killed by Serb soldiers and paramilitaries means that the "balance
sheet" of the NATO and KFOR commitment in Kosovo will always be negative.
It is also too early to say whether the deployment of international troops
in Kosovo under the auspices of UN Security Council Resolution 1244 of
10 June will be a success. Unfortunately, like the bombing campaign, the
efforts of the peacekeeping force began with a failure: KFOR could do
no more to prevent the expulsion of up to 200,000 Serbs and gypsies since
June, than NATO was able to do to prevent the expulsion of some 1.5 million
Kosovar Albanians in the preceding months. However, the chances of Serbs
and gypsies returning en masse are poor, so, sadly, this second expulsion
is likely to be more permanent.
In seeking to arrive at an interim balance, we must not lose sight of
the fact that the root cause of the humanitarian disaster in Kosovo was
the ruthless pursuit of a nationalistic apartheid policy by the Belgrade
regime. The effects of that policy may have been exacerbated by Western
hesitance and strategic miscalculations by the Allies during the air campaign,
but the tragedies in the former Yugoslavia were primarily triggered by
the repressive policy of President Slobodan Milosevic to which Kosovo
was subjected for over ten years. Structurally incapable of compromise
and an inevitable source of further violent conflict, this policy will
not change as long as Milosevic remains in power.
This provides serious food for thought. Under international law, Kosovo
remains a part of Serbia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia even if
de facto, and probably for many years to come, the province will be under
the control of KFOR and the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo
(UNMIK). The resulting legal uncertainty impedes the establishment of
civil structures in Kosovo. The Serb dominion over Kosovo has collapsed,
leaving nothing behind that can be put to any good use. The situation
is one of relatively orderly anarchy. Which laws are supposed to govern
the country? Who applies them? Which authority carries most weight? Who
will ensure public order? Who will guarantee water and electricity supplies,
waste disposal and road repairs? Who is going to maintain and improve
Kosovar Albanians rightly rejected the discriminatory legislation of
the Serb regime, and judges and courts were still unable to function three
months after the war ended. UNMIK and the interim advisory council that
has been set up with representatives of the different ethnic groups in
Kosovo have only a temporary borrowed authority with no democratic legitimacy.
Already, there are clear parallels in Kosovo with the Western commitment
in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Already, there is a danger that the same mistakes
will be made.
A young captain from the British KFOR contingent pays her respects at the site of a possible mass grave of Kosovar Albanians in the village of Kacanik, Kosovo, on 14 June.
(Reuters photo - 32Kb)
Delivering humanitarian assistance is obviously the first priority. People
need some kind of roof over their heads - even in September (at the time
of writing), the nights in the uplands of Kosovo are noticeably chilly,
and the bitter cold winter is not far off. Food supplies are also needed,
since most of the harvest was lost. KFOR is making a major contribution
in this area, alongside The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees
(UNHCR) and many non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
Unfortunately, as in Bosnia, the civilian aspects of restoring peace
to Kosovo are lagging behind the military aspects. The withdrawal of the
Serb forces and the deployment of KFOR went according to plan. Even the
demilitarisation of the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) was achieved on 21
September, despite a number of complications. But too little has been
done to set up new civilian structures. If KFOR had not taken on some
of the civilian and humanitarian duties, the present chaos would have
been even worse. KFOR has had to act as a police force, arresting and
incarcerating criminals, carrying out border controls, providing security
for schools and public buildings and, where possible, protecting threatened
By early September, the new civil police force was only embryonic. The
police officers, civil servants, judges, etc., which were promised by
the international community, have been slow to materialise, if at all.
Whereas a military organisation like KFOR can act and react swiftly, thanks
to its command structure, civil bureaucracies take far too long to keep
A further complicating factor is the almost impenetrable tangle of international
organisations, which are jointly responsible for establishing a new civil
order in Kosovo. It remains to be seen whether Kosovo will actually benefit
from the hoped-for synergistic effects, instead of suffering under the
all too familiar rivalry between the various organisations.
Dr. Bernard Kouchner - a former French health minister, well known as
the founder of the aid organisation "Médecins sans Frontières"
- is coordinating the civil activities in Kosovo, which are divided into
four main working areas.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR),
under Special Envoy Dennis McNamara from New Zealand, is responsible for
humanitarian concerns, such as organising supplies for exiles and helping
them to return home. The UNHCR is also wrestling with the task of coordinating
the work of over 250 NGOs, which have offered to help with the reconstruction
and democratisation of Kosovo.
The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Mission
in Kosovo - headed by former OSCE Ambassador to Albania Daan Everts from
the Netherlands - has the task of expediting the establishment of a democratic
civil society in Kosovo. The most important task is the preparation and
organisation of elections due to take place in April 2000. To this end
the OSCE is currently engaged in the arduous task of registering voters
- a task that is further complicated by the lack of personal identification
papers, which were confiscated by Serb authorities during the conflict.
The OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR)
is responsible for monitoring respect for human rights in Kosovo.
Working for the UN, German politician Tom Koenigs, previously municipal
treasurer of Frankfurt, is responsible for setting-up civil administrative
structures. His team's immediate priority is to restore the judicial system
and the municipal and regional administrations.
Responsibility for the European Union's economic reconstruction effort
in Kosovo lies with the British EU official, Joly Dixon. The main issue
here is to learn from past mistakes in Bosnia, where the economy is still
barely moving forward nearly four years after the end of the war. The
problem there was that too much was spent on reconstructing infrastructure
and not enough on supporting small- and medium-sized enterprises. In Kosovo,
the international community's financial resources should, first and foremost,
be used to help kick-start the economy, for example by providing loans
at favourable interest rates to enable the people themselves to become
actively involved in the reconstruction effort. This point needs to be
borne in mind at the donors' conference on Kosovo and the Stability Pact
due to take place at the beginning of October.
The international community's commitment in Kosovo is an integral part
of the overall efforts to bring stability and prosperity to the whole
of South-east Europe. To this end, a high-level steering group was set
up to coordinate the reconstruction of the entire region. The steering
group, jointly chaired by the EU and the World Bank, includes the finance
ministers of the G7 industrialised nations, Bernard Kouchner, as head
of UNMIK, and the special coordinator for the "Stability Pact for
South-east Europe", Bodo Hombach, former head of the German Federal
Launched by EU foreign ministers on 10 June, the Stability Pact is an
attempt, ten years after the end of the Cold War, to finally end the division
of the Continent and further the process of European integration. The
Stability Pact intends to tackle this challenge through three distinct
lines of action:
u developing a new pan-European security structure under the auspices of the OSCE, which calls for more effective instruments and institutions for the early identification and prevention of conflicts in the region;
These initiatives are to be combined with genuine prospects of accession
for those countries which wish to join the EU...which effectively means
every state in the region.
Apart from discussions on the central issue of security, additional "roundtables"
will focus on issues such as democracy and human rights, economic reforms,
and cooperation between experts and government representatives in the
countries concerned. The democracy "roundtable", for example,
will be concerned with strengthening the institutions of a civil society,
supporting independent media, evolving a legal system which conforms to
EU principles, and restructuring the civil administration. Another explicit
objective is to preserve the multinational and multi-ethnic diversity
of the countries in the region.
The economic cooperation "roundtable" will discuss privatisation
issues, structural change and tax systems. The main goals are to integrate
those participating in the Stability Pact into the World Trade Organisation
(WTO), to guarantee the free movement of goods and capital, and improve
the investment and business climate. A further objective is to campaign
against crime and corruption.
A British KFOR officer sifts through a pile of Kosovar Albanian passports and ID cards, which had been confiscated by Serb forces and were found on 13 June. The lack of ID papers is complicating the OSCE's task of registering voters.
(Reuters photo - 30Kb)
Kosovo can be seen as a test case for the Stability Pact as a whole.
Without a stable post-war order in Kosovo, there is no prospect of lasting
peace in the former Yugoslavia. The Stability Pact's economic cooperation
"roundtable" has therefore been assigned a working group on
reconstruction in Kosovo, headed by the Belgian Marc Franco and the EU
Commission's reconstruction agency for Kosovo.
It is unclear as yet what institutional form the Stability Pact will
take. The first summit meeting in Sarajevo on 30 July was largely symbolic,
and while a final declaration in very general terms was issued, no concrete
promises of aid were made. A separate donors' conference for the Stability
Pact will be held in Italy during the autumn.
Experience gained in Bosnia and the wider impetus provided by the new
Stability Pact could provide an opportunity for Kosovo. From Bosnia we
have learned that UNMIK must push on more resolutely with setting-up civil
structures and administering Kosovo almost like a protectorate until elections
are held. Its coordinating role must be combined with comprehensive powers.
Another lesson from Bosnia is that independent economic activity needs
to be promoted during the process of reconstruction, in particular, by
providing access to loans.
But, as the Stability Pact recognises, only a comprehensive regional approach can bring lasting peace to the Balkans, and growth and democracy to South-east Europe. Finally, as the wars in the former Yugoslavia have shown, the threat of force, or even the use of force, by NATO may sometimes be necessary in order to counter a militaristic policy by individual states that can destabilise the entire region.