17

Kosovo: independent, but a basket case

The economy is dead, corruption is rampant, and Serbia remains hostile


 
Independent, but a basket case

AFP/Getty Images

They could have been pictures from the Balkan 1990s: the burning barricades, the angry Serbs, the international soldiers standing idly by. But the photos that spread from north Kosovo this summer were decidedly present day, images of sudden violence in an area rarely thought of anymore as anything but a byword for crises gone by.

Kosovar police seized two border posts along the country’s northern boundary overnight on July 25. The operation escalated a feud with Serbia over customs stamps and control of the north. Ethnic Serbs in the area reacted with fury. Roads were blocked, a policeman was fatally shot and Serb forces were deployed to the border to keep hard-liners from crossing over.

For weeks the crisis simmered. Sabine Freizer, from the International Crisis Group, called it “the most dangerous moment” in the area since 2008, when Kosovo declared independence. The standoff also briefly threw the spotlight back onto Kosovo, a country that, three years after independence, remains deeply dysfunctional.

NATO bombs drove Serbia out of Kosovo in 1999. Twelve years later, after a similar coalition helped topple the Gadhafi regime in Libya, Kosovo stands as a reminder that, even if everything goes right, humanitarian intervention is a messy process. It can mean decades of involvement with partners who aren’t always savoury, and billions spent on projects that go nowhere. “Nation building works,” says James Dobbins, a director at the RAND centre and a former senior U.S. diplomat in the Balkans. “But the product is inevitably imperfect.”

Dobbins, an expert on Western intervention, counts Kosovo as a success. Despite occasional flare-ups, the area is mostly peaceful. But in other ways—most ways, really—Kosovo remains a basket case. The local economy produces “nothing,” says Engjellushe Morina, the executive director of the Kosovar Stability Initiative. The agricultural sector remains stillborn; the nation’s only real export is scrap metal. Official unemployment sits above 40 per cent and most families rely on remittances sent from family abroad to stay afloat. Kosovo also has Europe’s youngest population and the education system has neither the capacity nor the personnel to adequately train them. Those who do go to university rarely find decent work when they finish.

Politically, the situation is, if anything, worse. Kosovars consistently rank their country among the most corrupt in Europe. The political class is dominated by holdovers from the pre-war period, many with alleged ties to criminal groups. The prime minister, Hashim Thaci, was accused late last year of being involved in organ theft during the war in 1999. (He denies the charge.) Other senior officials have been indicted for alleged war crimes committed during the conflict. Just this month a former cabinet minister in Thaci’s government was charged with executing two Serbs during the war. “I’m so cynical about the whole thing,” says long-time Kosovo watcher Robert Austin, a project coordinator and lecturer at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs. The nation-building process in Kosovo, he believes, “has been totally botched. We’ve never come up with a method, in any of these places, to actually get the people in power that should be in power.”

Kosovo’s domestic problems are many. But locally, two issues dominate: Serbia and the north. During the Yugoslav years, Kosovo’s status yo-yoed between Serbian province and semi-autonomous zone. Historically, the Serbian people consider the area holy ground. Not surprisingly, Serbia has refused to recognize Kosovo’s independence. North of the Ibar River, where tens of thousands of Serbs live, the government in Belgrade still wields considerable influence, pouring in money to pay officials and fund a hospital and university.

The dispute between the two countries sucks up the political air in Kosovo. It shapes all debates and drowns out other issues. The crisis this summer began after high-level talks between the two countries broke down in July. Serbia had already blocked Kosovar goods from coming over its borders. After the talks ended, Thaci ordered a reciprocal ban. He had the border posts seized to enforce that measure.

The battles sparked by the seizure were never likely to escalate into war. Serbia has little to gain from military intervention and NATO reinforcements were quickly called in. By early September, the EU had brokered an agreement to return things to the status quo. The larger conflict, though, remains unsettled. More than a decade after the last war in the former Yugoslavia ended, the nations built from its ashes remain troubled and incomplete—none more so than Kosovo. For his part, Robert Austin worries that Kosovo is headed down the same path as Albania, one that will “end up with a really polarized and dangerous” political climate. “I wrote a lot in favour of independence” before 2008, Austin says. “But I’m pretty disappointed with the direction of events right now.”


 

Kosovo: independent, but a basket case

  1. Kosovo will inevitably return back to the Serbian fold. Once the Western appetite and wallet wanes for nation building, Kosovo will have no where to go.

    As you said they have no economy, no international standing, no membership into the UN and therefore the whole project remains stillborn not just agriculture. As such, Serbia just needs to recognize that its allies are in the BRIC and the Non Aligned Movement and not the sinking West. With that said, when the West pulls out due to their own imperialistic greed the K.Albs will have 2 choices. To reintegrate Kosovo in good faith to Serbia on the basis of autonomy, or to be all deported back to Albania.

    There are no other options.

  2. @ NikolaP@NikolaP:disqus 
    you forget the 3rd option – that of turning to Albania and uniting!

    • well we welcome a possible conflict with you Albanians to settle it once and for all, and this time without Western interference. You see it really doesn’t matter what you want because you people are criminals and are only getting your way because of a broader strategy the West has in place at alienating Russia. Fortunately this cannot continue forever as you see in the USA and in Western Europe that countries are collapsing due to their debt and the emerging economies such as Russia Brazil India and China all support our Kosovo policy.

      All Serbia really has to do is to wait out the current storm. Accept occupation for now because now is not the right time to fight for our rightful land. However the politicians in Washington, Berlin and Brussels cannot convince their compatriots to actually invest money into Kosovo to have it stand on its own 2 feet. Kosovo occupation survives on Western handouts that are getting smaller and smaller by the day. When the West no longer has the means to protect you and to fund your still born child I wonder where you will go?

      Albania? HA. You act as if Albania is a prosperous nation that can have its way with Serbia. The Serbian military is far more disciplined and better trained than any Albanian unit on earth. Yes Albania is in NATO but ask how many people in Tirana would be willing to die over Kosovo..none. Albania has its own problems and to absorb 1.5 million more Albanians which would be the most underdeveloped part of Albania will not be high on their agenda. 

      You can take this time to try and have Kosovo be independent in purest sense. To actually stand on its own feet, apart from Serbia but also able to fend for itself and not survive on handouts from a ship that is sinking faster than the Titanic..if you CANNOT do that by the time the Titanic hits the iceberg, then Kosovo will be 100% returned to Serbia and we will rebuild what you have destroyed. 

      Within 10-15 years that highway from Pristina to Albania will come very handy for you Albanians in a way you have never imagined..mark my words my friend :)

      • Bre, I agree with some of what you say, but we (Srbski) shouldn’t be looking for more conflict after we lost so much in the 90’s… Also, as a true adherent of the Holy Orthodox Church you should know that Jesus tells us to love our neighbors, the God of the Muslim Albanians is the God of the Catholic Croatians is also our God. Why do you wish suffering and death on them??? Even if you value their lives so little why would you want another war in Jugoslavia after seeing how much it set Serbia back and how many of our innocents were killed by NATO bombs?? Perhaps if we helped to raise Kosovo up, while promoting peace and interdependence between Srbja and Kosovo we could achieve the same or more as we could with armed conflict.

        • I respect your opinion. But you cannot steal apart of ones house and then call it as neighbors. Nothing we do will ever be good enough for Albanians and we have centurys long of history and churches to protect there. Our ancestors are buried in those grounds we cannot let Albanians live there forever.

          Besides I am not calling for genocide. I simply would deport all those Albanians to Albania and obviously those who fight, we would have to defend ourselves. 

  3. This is a properly written story, based on facts. But I have to disagree with the line where it says that …”Historically, the Serbian people consider the area (Kosovo) holy ground”. That dosent make a sense because if we look at things Historically, we all know that Serbs migrated to Balkans on 7th century AD, which was populated with native Albanians, also the so called serbian churches in Kosovo are not Serbian but Albanian, Serbia wants the north because of mines and “Trepca”.
    If Serbia considered Kosovo a holy land then why did they burn it in 1999, killing, raping, stealing and burning Albanians Catholic churches to the ground.
    Recently the Serbian National Television RTS apologized to It`s viewers for propaganda and hate speech. But Serbia still continues practicing the politics of the well known “butcher of Balkans” Slobodan Milosevic.

    • They are Serbian churches, and disputing that fact is foolish in its own and Albanians are muslim by a great majority. You forgot to mention that the KLA committed ethnic cleansing against the Serbs and massacred them. Kosovo is considered Serbian holy ground from the events that transpired during the occupation by the Ottoman Empire, so your history lesson is a pretty shoddy one. 


    • also the so called serbian churches in Kosovo are not Serbian but Albanian”Are you serious???? Are you suggesting Albanians were Christians before 7th century AD? Well that would make Albanians 3rd Christan nation after Armenians and Rome. I have to ask again-Are you serious????What facts are there to prove Albanians built this churches? Most Albanians are Muslim and small percentage Catholics ( most of them in southern Albania that was under influence of Italy). Claiming that Albanians adopted Christianity in it’s orthodox form before Russians did ( and that was in 9th or 10th century AD) is ridiculous and there is no a single historical fact that would support such claim.However, it’s well known fact who were the founders of Serbian state and church as well as during what time and who built them- (The Serbs, as Slavs in the vicinity of the Byzantine Empire, lived in so-called Sklavinia (“Slav lands”), territories initially out of Byzantine control and independent.[20] In the 8th century, the Vlastimirović Dynasty established the Serbian Principality. In 822, Serbia “stretched over the greater part of Dalmatia”,[21] and Christianity was adopted as state-religion in ca 870.[22] In the mid 10th century the state had emerged into a tribal confederation that stretched to the shores of the Adriatic Sea by the Neretva, the Sava, the Morava, and Skadar.[23] The state disintegrated after the death of the last known Vlastimirid ruler – the Byzantines annexed the region and held it for a century, until 1040 when the Serbs under the Vojislavljević Dynasty (Vlastimirović branch) revolted in Duklja (Pomorje).[24] In 1091, the Vukanović Dynasty (Vojislavljević branch) established the Serbian Grand Principality, based in Rascia (Zagorje).[24] The two halves were reunited in 1142)
       And one more question for you-What is Hasim Taci well known for? Kidnapping civilians ,killing them and selling their kidneys on black market- that’s worse than the “butcher of Balkans”. The Guardian named Kosovo “a horror state” after the involvement of Kosovar leadership in illegal human organs trade was reviled.
      .

    • “also the so called serbian churches in Kosovo are not Serbian but Albanian”Are you serious???? Are you suggesting Albanians were Christians before 7th century AD? Well that would make Albanians 3rd Christan nation after Armenians and Rome. I have to ask again-Are you serious????What facts are there to prove Albanians built this churches? Most Albanians are Muslim and small percentage Catholics ( most of them in southern Albania that was under influence of Italy). Claiming that Albanians adopted Christianity in it’s orthodox form before Russians did ( and that was in 9th or 10th century AD) is ridiculous and there is no a single historical fact that would support such claim.However, it’s well known fact who were the founders of Serbian state and church as well as during what time and who built them. The Serbs, as Slavs in the vicinity of the Byzantine Empire, lived in so-called Sklavinia (“Slav lands”), territories initially out of Byzantine control and independent.[20] In the 8th century, the Vlastimirović Dynasty established the Serbian Principality. In 822, Serbia “stretched over the greater part of Dalmatia”,[21] and Christianity was adopted as state-religion in ca 870.[22] In the mid 10th century the state had emerged into a tribal confederation that stretched to the shores of the Adriatic Sea by the Neretva, the Sava, the Morava, and Skadar.[23] The state disintegrated after the death of the last known Vlastimirid ruler – the Byzantines annexed the region and held it for a century, until 1040 when the Serbs under the Vojislavljević Dynasty (Vlastimirović branch) revolted in Duklja (Pomorje).[24] In 1091, the Vukanović Dynasty (Vojislavljević branch) established the Serbian Grand Principality, based in Rascia (Zagorje).[24] The two halves were reunited in 1142.[25]-taken from Wikpedia
       And one more question for you-What is Hasim Taci well known for? Kidnapping civilians ,killing them and selling their kidneys on black market- that’s worse than the “butcher of Balkans”. The Guardian named Kosovo “a horror state” after the involvement of Kosovar leadership in illegal human organs trade was reviled

      • Read some history Serbian Nomad, I don`t have time to explain things to a person who watched RTS all his life, and thinks that Ratko Mladic and Slobodan Milosevic are heroes.

        • Albanians didn’t even have a written language till 16th century. Without writing there is no such thing as complex architecture like orthodox churches at Kosovo, and thus your point is moot. Open any art history book and you’ll see expert talking about something called Moravian, Raska and Macedonian school of architecture in the Middle Ages. Albanians don’t have the genes of European native populations. You carry a middle eastern haplotype – you’re either from Arabian penninsula or Persia. You’re an invasive tribe too, keep living an illusion of Alexander the Great and Aristotle being Albanians. Aristotle was born on Halkidik penninsula where Athens had a big influence and migrated their peasant population. Alexander had light hair and light eyes – any Albanian with light hair and light eyes is of Greek origin.

          Want to tell me something about Illyrians now? Ok, Romans slaughtered all the Illyrian tribes during their rule of the Balkans. In Albania they had forts and military camps and sent expeditions to the mountains to stiffle the opposition of the tribes there. Turks made rivers of blood flow in modern Albania and the only place where an Albanian of that time could survive is Shkoder and Drach – that’s about 20-40,000 Albanians.

          If you are male you are most likely a Turk.

        • I certainly don’t consider Mladic and Milosevic heroes as a matter of fact I think they got what they deserved  but I am sure that today’s PM of Kosovo Hasim Taci is a former organized crime boss- a drug dealer to be more precise. Shame on country that has such PM and shame on all countries(including Canada which proud citizen I am) that support such a scumbag. The EU and USA leadership knows very well who are the leaders of Kosovo’s Albanians yet they continuously support the criminal activities of so called Kosovo state for some reasons that are beyond my moral codes….I just know that every actions has it’s reaction and building civil society on foundation of heroin and human trafficking money won’t bring any prosperity to so called Kosovo state.
          Forging history won’t take you anywhere.As much as you wished to have glorious national history, your culture of tribal hierarchy, disrespect to women and high illiteracy rate proves you still didn’t develop much from a 18th century tribe.

  4. Perhaps the article would have more credibility if it did not use every single opportunity to make the claim that Kosovo is “independent” (title), that there is a “dispute between the two countries”, that there are “talks between the two countries”, that Kosovars “rank their country”, etc. The big point of the dispute, of course, is that one of the sides and well over half of the world (where well over half of the economic growth today is) do not consider Kosovo a “country”. An article which pretends to present journalism would need to take this into account rather than send the same not-even-that-subliminal message five or more times in a single article.

  5. As a Serb living abroad all my life I must say that its nice to occasionally see someone from the media actually write what the facts are rather than write what the western governments want people to hear with political retoric and propaganda. All in all Serbs are a breed of people who would rather die and protect the historical heart land of Kosovo which is the foundation of Serbian existance. Little does the western media report that a pivital battle occured in Kosovo where the Serbs fought off the Turkish Ottoman empire and potentially saved Europe from invasion and god only knows what other historical consequences. As much as Serbia wants to move forward the Western political machine has created the break up of a Soveriegn nation in name of democracy and will see this fail in Kosovo as the Serbian people will never except Kosovo as another country because it is not fully recognised around the world and under the UN resolution 1244 it remains within the boarders of Serbia. How anyone could expect people to be booted out of their own country in the name of democracy is beyond me, but I’d say that the US and its allies had their hands dirty and were keen to be seen as victors against Serbs who were only protecting our ancestoral lands and religion from the Modern machine of democratic cleansing of Serbs within Kosovo, Croatia and Bosnia. Finally, I wish to add that as much as I believe in the democratic system I am dishartened at the level of bias the western media show towards Serbia and its people and the negative image people get when I speak to them day in, day out in society when I tell them I am Serbian. This in my opinion is not what democracy is about but I guess its easier to stereo type someone than hear the truth.   

  6. “…and Serbia remains hostile..”. Not accurate. Serbia is awaiting support from International community to officiate that the stolen land  returns to Serbia according to all UN Resolutions & International laws. 

  7. The author is regurgitating the same propaganda about Serbs , even-though the documents  exist about the events of the past two decades , particularly about the start of each conflict in Yugoslavia of the 1990-es …. It is a shame that Mac leans is on such a low level of integrity ….  

Sign in to comment.