the two faces of the moon
It is the 17th of February, 2008, and Kosovo unilaterally claims its own independence. An historic event which the author tells as a sort of running commentary, suggesting lights and shades between past, ‘present and future’ of that part of Europe where, it appears, that stability has not yet been reached. .
To interpret the facts through what one sees on the field should be the rule of many professions. Since I practice television journalism, it is my rule.
Occupied with my work in Kosovo and following the international politics, I have the impression, however, to have often looked at the wrong face of the Kosovo moon. The faces of the protagonists which are stamped on my memory – the joy of those who determined the pain of the others, like the different faces of the facts that, whichever way you want to look at them, you can even reverse them.
I saw a face of the Kosovan moon and heard the chancellors of half the world telling of another moon, or of the opposite face to my moon. At Pristine, on the 17th of February, 2008, I saw the heated, excited faces on that freezing day when they wanted to write history – that history with the capital ‘H’ of their independence. A probationary or protected Independence, which is exactly how one must feel who leaves prison on probation. The fluttering flags everywhere indicated so much joy. The ethnic one of the Albanian eagle on a red background and the ideal one of stars and stripes, which to the jubilant in Skanderbeg Square, seemed like streamers of a Lent carnival and of short duration.
Like any probationary liberty, for them it was soon realized that the problems of the real liberty are not simply staying out prison. The impact of such an epochal turning point, with the disorder at Mitrovica, the resignation of Kostunica, the stands taken between the European Union, Russia and the United States, has already shown the complexity of the situation.
During the days of the declaration of independence, a shrewd Albanian-Kosovar friend confided his fears to me. “Up till now, we have had only one problem: to obtain independence. From now on the problems will be thousands, without anyone capable of solving them”.
The details that elude the epic story of the Independence event are many. A Kosovo that makes itself an ethnic State, which is yet to have a Constitution that establishes a solemn pact that binds its citizens. Actually, the Magna Carta was written by a group of international scholars, presided over by the Italian, Maia, but the course of its ratification is still not concluded.
A State which is yet to have a civil and criminal code, whilst the few existing laws were Yugoslavian and the only laws respected were those of the Albanian tribes, written by Lek Ducajini, on the right to a blood vendetta. The two faces of the Kosovan moon. A State where the politicians, even if, by now, in double-breast, assemble and confront each other in a compromise between opposing clan powers which alternate parliamentary dialectics with bursts of machine-gun fire. A State where the free market is understood as the liberty to traffic in everything that brings profit. Everything.
The other face of independence is called secession, which is to say ‘independence against’. Against Serbia, obviously. Against the Kosovar- Serbs, whom I found, the day after, already barricaded in the northern part of Mitrovica, protesting under the symbol of a national pride, frayed by years of abuse by Miloševic, Mladic and Karadzic. On this side of the River Ibar, history – always with a capital ‘H’ – is read with numerous centuries in advantage. Kosovo as the cradle of the first mediaeval Serbian State; the conversion to Christianity of the Balkans; their monasteries of 1200. A weighty history. It was Churchill, the English Statesman of the Second World War, who said that the Balkans produce more history than they are able to consume. The Serbs and Albanians of this territory, living side by side for centuries – both peoples alternating tyranny and abuse towards each other – have a final account that is always uneven and to the disadvantage of each.
Weeks before, Claudio Magris reminded us of how identity is a “hot” value, while the State is a “cold” value. The two Kosovan identities in collision are hot, “very hot”.
The two languages; the two histories – often opposing and always adapted to convenience; the two religions or religious traditions; the food; the different songs of their folklores, through which they are moved.
In this land, the State, when it existed, was changed – by the comings and goings of the occupiers – by the Ottoman and Hapsburg Empires, by the Legions of Italian Fascism and the German Nazism. And then the experience of Yugoslavian Federative Socialism. Substantially happy times, as remembered by some senior Albanians – under the effect, perhaps, of a glass too many. Then, in the post-Tito period, the accentuation of an Albanian majority bullying that calls onto the field the bullying of the Serbian State expressed by Miloševic. Finally, the UNO referee, who permits the American fans, organized by the hooligans of NATO, to make a pitch invasion: the 1999 bombardments. The Albanian team wins in a Balkan Championship. To say it ‘alla’ Magris, the “hot” sentiments of identity win. It is a shame that, without the “cold” values of the laws of the State, in Kosovo, there will be some who will not be able to sing – and be moved by them - their sentimental songs.
Now, in the rest of the world, everyone is asking themselves how all this will end, in the face of an international political situation that is as uncertain as it is confusing.
An Albanian Kosovo for Washington, and a Serb one for Moscow? Is it already a reality? A Kosovo for Italy and the other for Spain? A united Kosovo, which we will never see, has given us the proof of a united Europe – only in name. A confusion of objectives and interests disguised as noble principles.
The United States that thinks of their Kosovan military super-base of Camp Bondsteel. Russia that goes to the help of their orthodox brothers of Belgrade as an instrument to counteract the American projects of Stellar Shield in Chechnya and Poland. And some added business for Gazprom, on the inexorable path of the oil roubles, flavours the dish.
We can also say that Europe takes Kosovo, and Russia puts more than one hand on Serbia. If it were only in the field of business, it does not seem a good result. In reality, it is much worse.
In the true Kosovo, I saw the opposite faces of right and wrong, alternating between the two parts: in the flight before, during and after the NATO bombardments of 1999; in the return of the many to drive out the few who had remained; in the retaliation against those who had tried to resist; in the domination of the numbers over the reasons and the rights of the others. In this Kosovo of two faces, also the words split into two, almost as if they were, in their turn, Albanian or Serb, American or Russian. Independence that becomes secession; warfare which before was called terrorism.
Humanitarian war or just war, justice or vendetta, democracy or tyranny?
Also, there are parts in the play for many protagonists, to start from the European plenipotentiary for the Xavier Solana foreign policy: the Solana, NATO Secretary-General of the 1999 bombs, or the Solana mediator in name and on behalf of a disunited Union?
Opposing interpretations also on rules and illegalities: A UNO resolution, the 1244, which each one interprets in their own way. Will it be the premise – written in black and white – which recognizes the Kosovan territory as part of Serbia; or the clever expedient, in order to arrive at a future “Status”, of recognizing the self-proclamation of independence by the Albanians? Shabby, as well as pathetic.
Which one of the two interpretations must guarantee the Military, also the Italian Military, of the NATO? Is the arbitrating supremacy of the United Nations worth more than the Atlantic Alliance with the United States? In the end – as if there ever existed a doubt – the law that will prevail is the old one of the jungle, that of the strongest. Continuing with our curiosity: Does an EU foreign policy exist, which is alternative to the NATO adhesion of 27 Member States? Which Kosovo does the European Union see? To what half of the moon is the EU going to send its new Eulex mission? In whose name and on whose behalf? And how will it be received?
Eulex will simply not be received in Mitrovic or in the other Serbian enclaves, unless it wants to pass from the stone-throwing of the daily demonstrations to grenade-throwing.Therefore, for a double Kosovo, a
levision Transmissions) Editorial Office in Belgrade. I lived in Kosovo from Prishtina for all of 1998. I saw the Uck (Kosovo Liberation Army) originate on the field and the war at Rambouillet. I experienced the 1999 NATO bombs in Belgrade, Prishtina, Prizren and Peja (1) . Fifteen years in the Balkans, and the more I know, the less I understand. I arrived in ex-Yugoslavia not knowing one shared language and I leave now not knowing at least seven languages, among which “Montenegrin”, “Bosnian” and “Herzegovina”.
I feel it useful to say that the present which we are discussing today is based on an “official” past – by now, definite at an international level –primarily in the Atlantic Alliance ambit. In my opinion, what we can define as the “basis of the reasoning” should, most necessarily, be reviewed and re-discussed.
Is it useful to insist with the past? Yes, if on the past, one constructs a perception of the deformed present. The examples in history are infinite. Can we imagine the present Germany without the lacerating re-visiting of the Nazi barbarism? Or democratic Italy, without the painful admission of the blame of Fascism? The problem of the Balkans, one of the biggest, is that none of the protagonists has ever wanted to face a serious confrontation with their past, with objective responsibility through which they can begin to define a possible future: to understand the why and the how of what happened and why it was able to happen.
Democratic Serbia is not making this confrontation. Still today, it is hiding its own blame behind an accentuated feeling of victimization by international plotting. Meanwhile, the Government of the moderate Vojislav Kostunica, is sustained until now, on the determinant vote of the party which was of Miloševic, and has not withstood the Unilateral Declaration of Independence of Kosovo, so much that Kostunica resigned and now Serbia has to go to the polls.
Also Croatia is not making it, completely: The Croatia of the old sympathies of Western convenience, and of the access to the EU, when it still tears itself apart on the figure of Ante Gotovina; for some wanted criminals and fugitives from justice; for many heroes and patriots to protect.
Neither is Kosovo making the confrontation. A Kosovo which enrols, together with the national heroes and partisan fighters, also bandits of the streets and drug peddlers from the prisons. Meantime, the internal political debate is often regulated with machine-gun fire, with no regard for the international “standards” of legality and protection of human rights.
It has not been made by any of the three Bosnian nationalities, for which, ten years ago, in the small Yugoslavia, we drew up between them, the Dayton and Paris Agreement. And today, they continue to uphold the most separatist and fundamentalist political representation.
This confrontation has also not been made by the indeterminate entity called the “international community”, which from time to time expresses itself through variable aggregations and with uncertain rules. One time through the UNO, another time through the United States, or through the Contact Group, or the OSCE, or the NATO, or the EU. The judgement of the Balkans on who really commands is unpredictably changeable: usually supporting the most convenient interlocutor. But, on this subject, I would like to return shortly, with a little more malice.
Also, it has not been made by the “Third Power” of the international Court of the Aja, suspected of having regulated its incriminations on the basis of “political “opportunities, rather than on the evidence. On this subject, I limit myself to the EU opening procedure of admission of Croatia and Turkey. Austria links its ‘Yes’ to Turkey, the ‘Yes’ of Brussels to Croatia. The then State Prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, who a week before had accused Zagabria of protecting the fugitive, Gotovina, had second thoughts and, in a great hurry, changed the European report card on Croatia.
The problem could be in understanding which Balkans, which “international community”, and which rules we are speaking about. If there are shared rules and if they are equal for everyone. In my Balkans, I have seen everything, and more. I saw the wreckage of the credibility of the UNO Blue Berets at Srebrenica, and I saw the international indignation, in varying intensities, between what seems to be a four-year “sleep” with regard to Bosnia, and the humanitarian frenzy for Kosovo.
In Kosovo, for it is this that we must speak of today, I had the impression of watching an accurate composition of a puzzle in which the single pieces had, for a long time, been pre-arranged, to realize the plan of the war. I saw a despotic and shaky regime in Serbia, that of Miloševic, draw internal strength and support from that which was perceived as an international encirclement.
I saw in Kosovo a suffering land, amalgamated up to that time by the non-violent practice of opposition, become armed and organized for the war.
I wrote of the “Gandhi of the Balkans”, the non-violent Rugova, and I have memories and recordings of when, in the spring of ’98, he maintained that the budding Uck was a creature of the Secret Services of Belgrade.
I saw the loads of arms of the Berisha Government pass the frontier between Albania and Serbia. Now I find Berishna at Tirana and I question myself again on Kosovo. I remember when I listened to the “head of the clandestine Government of Kosovo”, Bukoshi, in his Tirana office, explain to me the financial commitment of the Kosovan and Albanian Diaspora in Germany and the United States, for the creation of an army of liberation for Kosovo.
I saw, with the KDOM (Kosovo Diplomatic Observers Mission), spies and military instructors become diplomats, and the real diplomacy being observer to the deception. I saw the ex-Ambassador of OSCE (European Security and Cooperation Organization), William Walker, obtain the miracle of Lazarus at Racak, where the sadly known massacre happened: strangely, the dead walk in the night, and show themselves, the morning after, to the indignant world television. I was not in time to see the survey report of the Finnish experts, which clarified something.
I saw Rambouillet from a distance, and as a crafty reporter, in face of the obvious misleading interpretations of the then Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, I took advantage of equipping myself for the imminent war.
I saw the uninhibited use of the media in creating consensus or reprehension, to order. I learned that there existed the “good” suffering: that which can be played-up on the news, and the suffering that must be hidden.
I saw governments and diplomacy construct “truth” on the convenience of the moment, but much worse, I saw successive international political projects and analyses constructed on the previous adulterated truth.
The problem which I intend to pose is not, in reality, that of the historical re-visitation of the past, but rather to draw a lesson from too much ambiguity, in order to obtain clarity on the present and future.
Three simple questions:
1) Do rules exist and what are they?
2) Who decides them and who has to respect them?
3) How far does the Balkans reach?
Do they exist and what are they? For Bosnia, they were those of the inviolability of the State boundaries of the old Yugoslavian Federation. In the ambit of those rules, the tragedies of Vukovar, of the Serb-Croatian Krajne and the slaughter of Bosnia took place. Today, perhaps more wisely, the rules of the game and arbiters change for Kosovo. At this point, it would be opportune to think of some convincing arguments with which to address the Croatians of Mostar, the Serbians of Banja Luka, the Macedonian Albanians of Tetovo, for those Montenegrin of Dulcigno, and even to the Hungarians of Vojivodina.
With regard to the feared “domino effect” of Kosovo on all the Balkans, I do not think the conditions of a new bellicose upheaval of the area exist today. Instead, I believe in the possible accentuation of the conditions of instability, with the possibility of “low intensity” breeding grounds of violence. What strikes one today, 10 years away from the conflict, is the deafening silence which surrounds the Dayton agreements on Bosnia. An accident or second thoughts?
On the fragmentation question of the old Yugoslavia, I do not think it wise to under-estimate what happened in Montenegro and Macedonia. The separation between Podgorica and Belgrade came about almost naturally, without giving rise for concern. If anything, what should cause preoccupation are the mechanisms through which that separation came about, and those on which Montenegro stands today. The present Macedonian structure, and the opening to inter-ethnic dialogue by the new Skopje Government, I fear, still today, would be inconsequential in the common feeling of the Slavic-Bulgarian and Albanian national communities.
The boundary north of Macedonia, from Tetovo to Ohrid, is already, from today, that of a national Kosovo, with a political-commercial exchange which, I do not believe, can come under the rules of globalization shared by the international community.
It seems necessary to note how, with respect to the demonized national break-up in the Balkans of the recent past, one counts too much on the re-composition of the Yugoslav fragments into the body of the European Union. And what if the Union discovers that it is not soon able to metabolize other enlargements?
The question is to be resolved and cannot be liquidated with a short lesson in international law. Not in the Balkans. Which UNO, for example, or which NATO, which EU, or which United States? I ask myself.
Which UNO? The arbiter UNO of the shame of Srebrenica, or the marginal UNO which puts on the ex-post hat to the NATO intervention for Kosovo with the resolution 1244, finished immediately in waste-paper? Or again, the UNO of the Unmik of March, 2004, which pretended nothing was happening, or the UNO of the Unmik of the end of 2005, which we have just heard is full of good intentions?
The NATO: I excuse myself to the hosts of the house, but which NATO? The NATO of the intelligent bombs on Yugoslavia and of the “lies” of James Shea of Brussels, or the NATO of the courageous interposition in Bosnia and around the Serbian enclaves in Kosovo? A NATO which liberates all the Kosovans, or a NATO which liberates only a part, leaving, in certain zones, the numerous to cut the throats of the few? The NATO of the shame of the Prizren fires, or the NATO which defends and saves the monasteries of Decani and Peja?
Also for the United States, it is necessary to understand – starting from its key role in the NATO and in particular, in Kosovo. It is sufficient to go down the Bill Clinton Boulevard in Prishtina, to understand. There is even a bar called Hillary, and the mini Statue of Liberty on the roof of the Victoria Hotel. I find it difficult to imagine a square entitled JosÚ Manual Barroso. There was a Berlusconi bar, but in Tirana, and it was pulled down because the construction was illegal.
The United States question. Which United States? What politics are intertwined with these rules? In 2002, the so-called”Standards” were created. It was the then special representative, Steiner to enclose his proposal in the synthesis, “Standards before Status”. First, it verifies the standards of democracy, legality, protection of the minority and respect for human rights, before proceeding with the discussion of the future status of Kosovo, that is, of independence, which the United States has always supported. The disorder organized in the spring of last year erases many illusions. Today, one speaks of the “Standards and Status”.
Today, good sense imposes direct and indispensable confrontation between the Albanians and the Serbs. But what if this formula does not work? We started with “standards before status”, then “standards and status”. Will the next be “status without standards”?
The risk of elastic rules is, in the final analysis, that it always favours those who never want or intend to respect the rules, or those who are convinced to have such strong “saints in paradise” that they can afford to ignore the rules valid for the others.
The last question. But do the Balkans really exist? My friend, Predrag Matvejevic, Croatian scholar and writer –who exiled himself from the civil war, first in Paris and now in Rome, often asks this question. Metternich, the great Austrian-Hungarian Minister said that the Balkans started immediately south of Vienna. At Ljubljana, if you call them Balkans, they are offended. If you go to Zagabria and ask of the Balkans, they will indicate Pannonia and Belgrade. From Belgrade, the indication is still towards the south, towards Kosovo and Albania. Of the Balkan in the Balkans, there seems to be only the attempt not to be Balkan.
More south, the existing hypothesis of the “Great Albania”. Not an explicit, politically articulated project, but simply the shattering reality of demographic expansion. It is my suspicion that there are too many analyses on the real or presumed political projects and very little reflection on the geography and demography of the facts. For example, on which Western Balkans must we reserve our attention, before elaborating projects? A unitarity of problems tied to the Slavic Balkans exists (which are not only Serbia and Croatia, but also Bosnia, Montenegro and
The events of these last years are not consoling. The Serbian Government is even weaker and more fragmented with the resignation of Kostunica – which, always oscillating between the “good” Tadic and the “bad” Nikolic – brings Serbia to re-discuss its destiny by going to the polls next May the 11th.
In the meantime, the fugitive, Ante Gotovina has finished in the international gaol of Scheveningen in Holland, but the Croatian misinterpretation on the years of Tudman is not finished.
The name of Rugova, whom I have previously mentioned, has never passed the lips of the present Premier, Hashim Thaši, who cites him as “Father” of Independent Kosovo. Ghandi or no Ghandi, let him also rest in peace.
Today, Montenegro is independent of Serbia and is about to celebrate the return to the summits of the disputable Dukanovic. Macedonia has finished the brief season of national understanding and the most fundamentalist expressions of the two parts have returned to power.
With the exception of these details, what was said at the NATO parliamentary Assembly in 2005 remains valid. I say it is a pity that not one among those authoritative interlocutors of that time took the minimum notice.
(1) I cite here the names of cities and places in Kosovo in the Albanian diction, underlining, however, that each name has its corresponding name in Serbian.