Balkans joining EU and NATO - (part 5): Kosovo - The long way to independence

Kosova independence Vienna

Kosovo has been a province changing hands many times through history, from Bulgarian, Byzantine, Serbian, Ottoman to being a part of Serbia within Yugoslavia. In modern times Kosovo has long sought autonomy to a maximum degree. Whilst Kosovo was partly autonomous for a long time, it’s largest level of autonomy was granted in Tito’s Yugoslavia, especially after the constitutional reform in 1974. Kosovo was granted major autonomy with its own administration, assembly, legislative, judicial and substantial constitutional autonomy, along with its own constitution, presidency, government and gained a seat in the Federal Presidium of Yugoslavia, which included veto power on the federal level, equal to the state of Serbia. Tito had been a strong supporter of all ethnicities in Yugoslavia having equal rights, promoting the famous “Brotherhood and Unity” slogan, aimed at bringing all the states together as one people, not through assimilation, but through understanding.

Shortly after Tito’s death 11 March 1981 protests erupted in the cafeteria at the University of Pristina, with students demanding better food and improved living conditions in the dormitories. The protests were shut down by police in a harsh manner, with around 100 people arrested, but this continued to spark new protests and spiraled into large scale protests in Kosovo. The seemingly spontaneous protests (in fact organized by 2 professors) in the cafeteria of the university, which had included Kosovo-Serbs at first, pivoted into demands for Kosovo becoming a seventh republic of Yugoslavia, and a desire for a different kind of socialism than the Yugoslav kind. This all led to rising confrontations between Yugoslav security forces and Kosovo-Albanians, but also in some cases the wrath of Kosovo-Albanians hit regular Kosovo-Serbs and Kosovo-Montenegrins. The conflict continued to spiral even more, and in some ways even helped Slobodan Milošević gain power in Serbia playing on nationalist rhetoric, later sacking leadership and reducing the autonomy of Kosovo. This escalated the crisis even more, leading to the Kosovo War.

in war truth is the first casualty

As I see it, it’s impossible to cast the blame on a specific side for the conflicts, regular people of both sides were victims, even with many of them being victims of their own sides actions in different ways. This becomes especially true if you look at the real winners from the conflict. The biggest profit makers in Kosovo today are the banks, with a total banking profit in 2015 of over 90 million euro and over 80 million euro in 2016, and banking sector growing at a higher rate than even Serbia and Albania. Kosovo’s biggest bank is the German Pro Credit Bank followed by the Austrian Raiffeisen bank. Taking this into account it’s not hard to imagine that Germany was the strongest advocate of NATO intervention, taking the lead in creating consent for the NATO bombings. In fact, the German Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping was so keen on a swift NATO reaction, that he manufactured evidence to indicate that there was a humanitarian crisis in Kosovo. Which we now know really happened after the NATO bombings, where the worst war crimes and genocides took place. The reality is, that everyone knew that there would be a humanitarian crisis of massive proportions if NATO bombed, it was discussed in NATO, in OSCE but none of these discussions ever made it to the public.

Declaration of independence, NATO membership and American base

When Kosovo declared itself independent 17 February 2008, United States was among the first countries to recognize it. Not surprisingly as they have built one of the largest and most expensive U.S. military bases since the Vietnam War, in Kosovo. Camp Bondsteel was built without any international approval or approval from Serbia who was the de jure owner of the land until 2008. The Military base has been criticized by the human rights envoy of the Council of Europe, described as a "smaller version of Guantanamo". The military base is not open to inspections by the Committee for Prevention of Torture (CPT), which has the right to visit all "places of detention" of the member states of the Council of Europe. The plan now is to transform it into a permanent location of American troops and a hub of U.S. military presence in South East Europe for geostrategic purposes and confrontations.

It’s not hard to see why the Kosovars are amongst the strongest supporters of the US leadership, whether it’s Bush, Obama or Trump, Kosovars are amongst the strongest supporters according to polls. They simply believe that U.S. has the best interests of the Kosovars, but if you look at history, United States only has its own best interests, and not those of Eastern-Europeans nor Muslims.

Kosovo aims to join NATO in 2022 but there are still obstacles to be tackled, because some of the NATO members doesn’t recognize Kosovo’s independence and because of the fact that Kosovo hasn’t attained UN membership, which is considered to be necessary for NATO membership.

Kosovo in the EU

The EU, does not possess the legal capacity to diplomatically recognize any state; member states do so individually, however the European Parliament adopted a resolution on 8 July 2010 calling on all member states to recognize Kosovo. However not all EU countries have recognized Kosovo’s independence, but EU have told Serbia that if it wishes to enter the union it shouldn’t coerce other countries to abstain from recognizing Kosovo. It is also perceived that if Serbia was to enter EU before Kosovo, it could veto Kosovo’s entry, so the most likely scenario is that both Serbia and Kosovo would enter EU at the same time, probably following a wide recognition of Kosovo’s independence.

See also:

Balkans joining EU and NATO - (part 1): Bulgaria - Turning the tide

Balkans joining EU and NATO - (part 2): Romania - Ending of an era

Balkans joining EU and NATO - (part 3): Albania - Ideology made it hard to make friends

Balkans joining EU and NATO - (part 4): Serbia - Once were Yugoslavs

Alexander Awayez

Alexander Awayez is an investigative journalist and researcher of Bulgarian/Iraqi descent who grew up in Denmark and later moved to Bulgaria.