web analytics

Tag Archive for United Nations

Ivica Dacic and the art of the possible

There’s an interesting piece on the Balkan Insight website this evening reporting comments made by Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic regarding the future status of Kosovo.

Referencing the 1995 Dayton Agreement which brought about an end to conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina by dividing the country up into two functionally autonomous regions linked by only the very loosest central government ties, Dacic argues in favour of a “new Dayton” to resolve the conflict between Serbia and the majority-Albanian government in Pristina about the future of Kosovo.

Unsurprisingly, the suggestion has been dismissed out of hand by the government in Pristina.  After all, why would they feel compelled to accept a sovereignty-sharing arrangement with Belgrade?

Kosovo’s independence has been recognised by the United States and twenty-two of the EU’s twenty-seven member states (those that don’t – Spain, Slovakia, Cyprus, Romania, and Greece – have problems with irredentist or secessionist movements and are unwilling to recognise Kosovo for fear of setting an internal precedent).  Furthermore, 93 of the 193 United Nations members recognise Kosovo, just shy of the “magic number” (100) require for them to apply for UN membership.

The charming and urbane former Serbian State Secretary for Kosovo Oliver Ivanovic, who I have had the pleasure to meet on a number of occasions in his home-town of Mitrovica, offered a withering response to Dacic’s suggestion: “only Serbia thinks that Kosovo’s status has not been resolved, while for the [Kosovo] Albanians and the West the issue is resolved”.

The government in Belgrade increasingly gives the impression of advocating a position on the Kosovo issue that it itself knows is untenable and unrealistic, while at the same time losing out on genuine opportunities to improve the lives of Serbs in the province.  On a diplomatic level, Serbia enjoys a level of confidence and trust akin to that of a Greek covered bond.

Despite the dogged international support it has received, backed up by tens of millions of Euros in US and EU funding, the Ahtisaari Plan which was supposed to ensure the safe return of Serbs to Kosovo and their integration into the country’s political system has, for most part, been a failure.

While a small number of Serbs hold posts in the Kosovan government and in municipal authorities, large tracts of the country remain total “no go” zones for Serbs.  In the past four months alone, two elderly returnees were murdered close Urosevac, two men were shot while driving in Istog while Serb homes near Zac were pelted with stones and daubed with extremist graffiti.

These communities are exactly the ones forgotten by the Dacic government in its almost-daily clamour to announce new and untenable “solutions” to the Kosovo conflict.  Politics is the part of the possible and, try as he might, Dacic will not achieve the impossible: the reunification of Kosovo and Serbia in a unitary state.

It’s time for Dacic to wake up to what he can positively achieve for his people.

In the short-to-medium term the Serbian government should aim to secure two successful outcomes from their EU-led negotiations with Pristina – and avoid any talk of reunification, beyond that of the majority Serb provinces in the north of Kosovo where Pristina’s writ has never run.

Firstly, a clear pledge should be extracted from the European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) to refocus its resources on guaranteeing the safety of Serb returnees to an area that is, at least in theory, a “multi-ethnic Republic”. Secondly, the government should push for the security checks and (in some cases spiteful) customs levies being levelled on Kosovo’s northern and western borders with Serbia to be removed in order to allow a free flow of people and goods.

In return, Serbia should promise to continue working with Belgrade on projects such as the sharing of cadastral records, the mutual recognition of educational diplomas and the re-opening of railway links between Pristina and Belgrade – an economic link Kosovo badly needs.

Such a solution would go some way towards achieving a sense of normalisation between Kosovo and Serbia that is of benefit to both its peoples – without the word “sovereignty” passing Ivica Dacic’s lips or giving Kosovan Prime Minister Hashim Thaci the opportunity to level his usual allegation of Serb “aggression”.

Dilma government refuses to back Syrian opposition

It came as little surprise to me to read this morning that Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has refused join the steadily-increasing number of governments who have recognised the Syrian opposition coalition formed in Doha last week as the country’s legitimate government.

The Brazilian government has instead expressed issued a statement expressing its concern at the worsening violence in the country and called for an enlarged role for the United Nations in solving the conflict.  This stance is sadly entirely characteristic of Brazilian foreign policy over the last decade: abdicate responsibility and continue calling for multi-lateral solutions even when, as in this case, the time for UN-led negotiations has long since passed. Decepcionante…

What makes this decision all the more difficult to understand is that there is a significant number of senior political figures of Lebanese descent currently serving in the upper echelons of the Brazilian government who will no doubt be extremely familiar with the Syrian occupation of Lebanon that was in place for thirty years from 1976 to 2006.  Lebanese-Brazilians a enjoy significant influence of Brazil’s economic, cultural and political life – their ranks including Vice-President Michel Temer, Sao Paulo Governor Geraldo Alckmin and outgoing Sao Paulo Mayor Gilberto Kassab.  Widespread protests by the influential Lebanese community could prove vital to forcing President Rousseff to change tack.

Last December I wrote an article for The Commentator expressing my outrage that Brazil had abstained from a vote on United Nations Security Council voted on Resolution 1973 ordering Muammar Gaddafi to call a ceasefire against opposition rebels and imposing a ‘no fly zone’ over Libya.  What was the Brazilian government’s solution to stop the carnage?  They issued a press release calling for “dialogue” between Gaddafi and the rebels.

In the piece, I argued that the Rousseff administration ought to refocus its approach to international relations in order to achieve a leadership role on human rights issues amongst countries in the new global democratic order.  In light of the country’s refusal to back the Syrian rebels seeking to overthrow the barbaric Assad regime, I’d say the article is as relevant today as it was then:

Brazil’s long-held belief in a foreign policy which actively avoids military conflict in favour of diplomacy need not fundamentally change. What must change, however, is the country’s willingness to sacrifice its own passion for the defence of human rights and democracy in the pursuit of a high-minded yet spineless policy of non-interventionism at almost all costs.

An aversion to sending troops into combat need not result in a refusal to impose trade barriers, cut off Brazilian government aid or to back the international community in UN resolutions condemning tyranny.

President Rousseff must ask herself a simple question: does Brazil want to lead a new global democratic order or continue as a quisling state that stands idly by while the same hatreds and injustices that once plagued Brazil rage on its border and overseas?

You can take a look at the extended piece by clicking here.