Michael Ignatieff and Humanitarian Intervention

Current leader of the Canadian Federal Liberal Party, Michael Ignatieff has long been involved in the issue of human rights–as a historian, journalist, public intellectual, and as the former Carr Professor and Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Kennedy School of Government.

In the aftermath of the contentious NATO military intervention in Kosovo (1999), Ignatieff sat down with WBUR’s Chris Lydon to assess what had gone right (and wrong) during the intervention. A self-identified member of the “something must be done [to stop alleged Serbian war crimes against the Kosovar Albanians]”, Ignatieff stands by his support for the intervention, claiming that, on the whole, the benefits outweighed the costs.

New International Crisis Group Report on Serbia

Taking a cue from Marshall Mathers, the ICG has released a new report on Serbia entitled “Will the Real Serbia Please Stand up?”, please stand up, please stand up: (actually, I just added the second part.  Serbia is facing critical parliamentary elections in May, which were called upon the collapse of the previous coalition government as a result of Kosovo’s declaration of independence in February:  The full report is here, while the overview is below:

Europe Briefing N°49
23 April 2008


Kosovo’s independence declaration on 17 February 2008 sent shock waves through Serbia’s politics and society, polarising the former in a manner not seen since the Milosevic era. Rioting led to attacks on nine Western embassies, destruction of foreign property and massive looting. The government fell on 10 March, split over whether to pursue a nationalist or pro-Western path. Belgrade’s efforts to create a de facto partitioning of the north of Kosovo threaten the new state’s territorial integrity and challenge deployment of European Union (EU) missions there, and Serbian parliamentary and local elections on 11 May are unlikely to change the basic policy towards the new state, even in the unlikely event a pro-Western government comes to power. They may, however, well give Serbia’s nationalist parties new leverage.

The election campaign is heated. Verbal attacks have increased against opposition parties, independent media and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that disagree with the hardline nationalist policy on Kosovo. After the polls, one of two main scenarios is likely, since no party will win enough votes to form a government alone. Nationalists from the Serb Radical Party (SRS) could form a coalition with the “People’s Bloc” led by Premier Vojislav Kostunica’s Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) and the late dictator Slobodan Milosevic’s old Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS).

If nationalist forces win, Euro-Atlantic integration will come to a halt, and Serbia will enhance its ties with Russia. They will support a more belligerent response in Kosovo, and Kosovo Serbs’ use of low-level violence. They may encourage Republika Srpska to leave Bosnia-Herzegovina and meddle in Macedonian internal affairs. A backlash against pro-Western parties and their supporters and an increased climate of media repression can be expected. Uncertainty will lead to a fall in foreign direct investment and economic growth.

Alternatively, pro-Western forces might form a weak government, but only with the support of nationalists, such as the DSS or SPS. Serbia could then anticipate the same kind of domestic instability it experienced under the outgoing government. If the more pro-Western Democratic Party (DS) tried to chart an openly pro-EU course, it would face the type of obstruction and opposition that led to Premier Zoran Djindjic’s assassination in 2003.

At best, the EU and U.S. will have limited influence for many months, until a new government is formed, which may not be until September or later. Meanwhile, the public anger over Western support for Kosovo’s independence is such that any attempt to pressure or even induce Belgrade into more cooperation risks strengthening the nationalist vote. Brussels and Washington would be well served to lower levels of rhetorical support for the more pro-Western Democratic Party (DS) of President Boris Tadic, G17+ and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and end interference in the campaign via promises of a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA).

More specifically, in this pre-election period the EU and the U.S. should:

  • stop intervening directly in support of one or another political force;
  • not sign an SAA unless Serbia gives full cooperation to the International
    Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY); and
  • offer increased support to civil society.

Serbian Electorate Must Choose–Stomach or Heart?

narodna_skupstina_srbije.jpgThe Serbian coalition government, with moderate nationalist Vojislav Koštunica as Prime Minister–has collapsed following dissension within the multi-party governing coalition over the “loss of Kosovo.” Voters will go to the polls to elect a new government on May 11th having to make a stark choice in the polling booth: whether to side with the nationalists in their struggle to forestall Kosovar independence, or to vote in a more moderate pro-European government, thereby placating not only members of the European Union but calming the nerves of wary international investors, who have become the life-blood of the Serbian economic system. As reports reports:

…The coalition government collapsed at the weekend, with nationalist Prime Minister Vojislav Koštunica blaming disunity over the conflicting goals of pursuing European Union membership versus defending Kosovo, the province which seceded last month with EU backing.

“Right now, around 1.0 billion euros worth of investments have been put on hold,” [Deputy Prime Minster Božidar] Djelić said. “There is a growing risk perception considering that some parties want to halt Serbia’s road to Europe. The elections will be a choice between Europe and investors are extremely careful.”

Heavily reliant on foreign investment for growth, Serbia is believed to need between 3.0 billion and 5.0 billion euros a year to ensure solid economic growth, single digit inflation and financing of its current account gap of 16 percent of GDP.

“In the absence of the required level of foreign investment, foreign creditors could also decide to put on hold lending to Serbian companies,” said Pavle Petrović of the FREN/CEVES thinktank said.

“The resulting crisis would lead to forcible reduction in external gaps through inflation, currency depreciation, a fall in output and wages. In that case, the central bank could soothe and postpone, but not eliminate the crisis,” he said.

Serbian President Reacts to Yesterday’s Violence in Belgrade

Recently elected Serbian President, Boris Tadić, has responded to yesterday evening’s violence in Belgrade, which involved the torching of the US Embassy by an unruly mob numbering hundreds.  The mob was but a tiny minority of the crowd of hundreds of thousands, which had gathered earlier in the day to peacefully protest Kosovo’s declaration of independence on Monday of this week.  Tadić, a the leader of the moderate Democratic Party in Serbia, had this to say about the events:

tadic.jpg Tadić, who was in Romania Thursday, today said he has “asked all relevant institutions for reports on yesterday’s unrest in Belgrade”.
For the same reason, he was called a session of the Council for National Security…

…Tadić is also strongly condemning the violence, looting and burning, that ended in one death and nearly 200 injured, as well as huge material damage to the city.

“There is no justification for violence, no one must dare to justify it with a single word,” his press service said in a statement…

…Tadić went on to say that “this is not Serbia and Serbia will never be like this”.

“The state must have law and order and such violence must never happen again, anywhere,” Tadić said.

U.S. Formally Recognizes Kosovo Independence

We discussed in class today that of the four characteristics of a state, the only one that Kosovo had, at that point, not fulfilled was international recognition by other states. According to this Washington Post story, the United States has begun to change that:

kosovo_independence1.jpgPresident Bush hailed the newly independent Kosovo and officially recognized it as a state and a “close friend” on Monday, expressing strong support for the new Balkans nation even as he rebuffed protests by Serbia and Russia.

The formal announcement came in a statement issued by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is traveling in Africa with the president. “The United States has today formally recognized Kosovo as a sovereign and independent state,” she said. “We congratulate the people of Kosovo on this historic occasion.”

I understand what it feels like to be a Kosovar Albanian today as it takes me back to 15 January 1992, when European and other states, including the United States, formally recognized the independence of the Republic of Croatia. I can also sympathize with Serbs, who must feel like their heart has been ripped out of their body given that Kosovo is integral to history and spirit of the Serbian nation. Ivo Banac has written that “the history of the Balkans is a history migrations, not only peoples, but of lands.” The Serbian nation was founded on land that the Serbs no longer control politically as a result of the vicissitudes of politics in that part of the world and the drift of the center of gravity of Serb political northward over the centuries. It is incumbent upon the new Kosovo government and the international community to allow Serbs to continue to have access to the sacred religious and spiritual monuments of their past.

You can see a comprehensive slide show of photographs marking the situation here.

Below is a photograph of the famous Serbian Christian Orthodox Gračanica Monastery in Kosovo.


Serbian Reactions to Kosovo’s Declaration of Independence

Serbia’s B92–an independent news source in Serbia–reports that protesters have ransacked the Slovenian embassy in Belgrade, and damaged the U.S. Embassy and a McDonald’s. The protesters view the U.S. as the major patron of the Kosovar Albanians and the major facilitator (with help from the E.U.) of today’s declaration of independence. I presume that the Slovenian embassy was attacked because Slovenia is the current holder of the rotating Presidency of the EU. Here’s part of the report (in English), along with footage of the protesters:

BELGRADE — At least 30 policemen and 30 civilians were injured as protesters demonstrated against U.S. and EU Kosovo policy.

Police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse rioters that attacked them after vandalizing a McDonald’s restaurant in downtown Belgrade.

Earlier, the Slovenian embassy came under attack when a group of some 30 people broke a police cordon to smash the windows and ransack the building, tearing and burning the furniture inside and flags displayed on the balcony. Police then managed to contain the situation and push them back.

Previuosly, the protesters, several hundred strong, shortly stopped in front of the Serbian government headquarters, to proceed toward the U.S. embassy.

Police were out to secure the parameter, but although the organizers said the protest would be peaceful, cars were being demolished, while stones and lit flares were flying toward the embassy building and the officers themselves.

Kosovar Albanians Declare Independence From Serbia

As of the beginning of 1991, the Socialist Federated Republic of Yugoslavia was an internationally recognized state, which consisted of six republics (Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia) and 2 autonomous regions within Serbia–Vojvodina and Kosovo. As of today, with Kosovo declaring its independence from Serbia, the only one of those eight political units that is not an independent state is Vojvodina. The New York Times reports that the euphoric Albanians showed their gratitude to the United States for the development:

kosovo_independence.jpgPRISTINA, Kosovo — The former Serbian province of Kosovo declared independence on Sunday, sending tens of thousands of euphoric ethnic Albanians into the streets of this war-torn capital to celebrate the end of a long and bloody struggle for national self-determination.

The declaration marks the final dismemberment in the 17-year dissolution of the former Yugoslavia. It also brings to a dramatic climax a showdown between the West — which argues that the former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic’s brutal subjugation of Kosovo’s majority ethnic Albanians cost Serbia its authority to rule the territory — and Belgrade and its ally Moscow, which counter that Kosovo’s independence declaration is a reckless breach of international law that will spur other secessionist movements across the world.

Ethnic Albanians from across the world streamed into Pristina, braving freezing temperatures and heavy snow, to dance in frenzied jubilation. Beating drums and waiving Albanian flags, they chanted “Independence! Independence! We are free at last!” while an enormous birthday cake was installed on Pristina’s main boulevard.

An outpouring of adulation for the United States — Kosovo’s staunchest ally in its quest for independence and the architect of NATO’s 1999 bombing campaign against Mr. Milosevic — was evident everywhere. Thousands of revelers unfurled giant American flags, carried posters of former President Bill Clinton, and chanted “Thank You U.S.A.!” and “God Bless America.”

Meanwhile, balkaninsight.org reports on an anti-U.S. counter-rally in the streets of the Serbian capital of Belgrade:

17 February 2008 Belgrade _ Hundreds of protesters blocked the Embassy of the United States in downtown Belgrade on Sunday, less than an hour after Kosovo’s leaders unilaterally declared the province’s independence from Serbia.

Protesters in Belgrade pelted the embassy building and police with stones and torches. At least one policeman was carried away in an ambulance. The number of injuries in the crowd could not be verified immediately.

Serbian police in full riot gear had cordoned off the embassy and managed to push protestors away from the embassy. The crowed scattered in nearby streets, but its numbers continued to grow.

Waving Serbian flags, burning signal torches and chanting nationalist and anti-American slogans, the crowd had initially tried to block both entrances to the embassy compound, which stretches over two apartment blocks on Kneza Milosa Street.

“We want to show we hate Yanks and Shiptars [a pejorative for Albanian],” a young protester who identified himself only as Dejan said, using a derogatory Serbian term for Kosovo Albanians.

A good source for views from within Serbia is the B92 broadcast network, whch reports that Serbia has annulled Kosovo’s declaration of independence, judging it to be an illegal act:

BELGRADE — PM Vojislav Koštunica addressed the nation today as ethnic Albanians unilaterally declared Kosovo’s independence.

It a televised address from the seat of the Serbian government in Belgrade, Koštunica rejected this act as illegal, and declared it null and void.

“Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of a false state is the final act of a policy that started with the NATO aggression against Serbia in 1999,” the prime minister said.

“Never has the truth about why Serbia was savagely destroyed by NATO bombs been more clear,” he continued, and added that “NATO’s military interests lie behind the proclamation of this false state.”

From bd at Richmond, here’s a link to reporting by MSNBC on Kosovo.

Kosovo’s bid for Independence

From the BBC, we learn that the Albanian majority in Serbia’s southern region of Kosovo is expected to vote for independence from Serbia within days. The province has been controlled by the international community since the end of the NATO-led war against Slobodan Milošević ‘s regime in 1999. In PLSC250 yesterday, we discussed the Kurdish campaign for self-determination and noted some of the arguments for and against. The most comepelling argument for secession/independence is a deontological argument based on the inherent right of groups to decide for themselves their system of government. The most obvious argument against is a utilitarian one, voiced here by Serbia’s Foreign Minister, Vuk Jeremić :

[Independence for Kosovo] would lead to an uncontrolled cascade of secession

Here’s more from the article:

kosovo.jpgSerbia’s foreign minister has urged the United Nations Security Council to oppose the province of Kosovo’s expected declaration of independence.

Vuk Jeremic said Serbia would not use force to stop the secession but warned that allowing it would give a green light to other separatist movements.

The ethnic Albanian majority in Kosovo is expected to announce its breakaway from Serbia within days.

Russia has warned that recognition of Kosovo would be illegal and immoral.

Speaking after the closed session, Serbia’s foreign minister said that is was not too late for diplomats to prevent Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence.