Nation and State Building: the case of Kosovo

Interview with Pr. Labinot Greiçevci, Executive Director of the Research Institute on Statebuilding in KOSOVO
by Anna Dimitrova

Several months after Kosovo declared independence (17 February 2008) the future of the newly created state is still uncertain pending on the local government and the international missions of EU (EULEX), UN (UNMIK) and NATO (KFOR).
According to the Constitution of the Republic of Kosovo, adopted 9 April 2008 for entry into force 15 June 2008, Kosovo is:
“(…) a multi-ethnic society based upon the equality of all its citizens.
Kosovo has no official religion and is neutral on question of religious beliefs;
Kosovo will have its own, distinct, flag, seal and anthem, which must reflect the multi-ethnic character of Kosovo;
The official languages of Kosovo will be Albanian and Serbian;
Kosovo will have the right to negotiate and conclude international agreements, including the right to seek membership in international organizations;
Kosovo will have no territorial claims against and will not seek union with another State or part of any State (…)”
The youngest state still has a lot of challenges to meet, mostly related to its urgent integration in some international and European economic organisations indispensable for its economic take off and its institutional development. Ahead in the political agenda are also the processes of nation and state building that the government of the Republic of Kosovo with the support of some international organizations and, in particular the UN, is about to put into place.

1. What has changed 3 months after the declaration of independence of Kosovo?

Labinot Greiçevci: In fact, lot of things have changed in Kosovo in the last 4 months after the declaration of independence. For instance, we have a new reality which means the newest State in the world (The Republic of Kosovo) which has been recognized by more than 40 countries8 including here USA, major EU states, Canada and all G7 members. The process of international recognition is moving forward in a very positive way. Moreover, a new Constitution has entered into force two days ago. The new constitution reflects the new reality in Kosovo, which means that Kosovo belongs to its citizens independently from their ethnic or religious background. Furthermore, Kosovo’s Government has compiled and Kosovo’s parliament has approved more than 40 new laws which are related to the new structures and institutions of Kosovo’s statehood, including the laws that are related to the decentralization and minority rights and their religious institutions and heritage. The new Constitution and the 40 laws that have been passed on are in a full compliance with Ahtisaari’s proposal for Kosovo’s future status. Similarly, Kosovo has its new anthem, flag and its arms and in all these features its multi-ethnic character is reflected as confirmed by the international community that is present in Kosovo. Furthermore, Kosovo’s Government has approved its economic policies for a mid-term period aimed at softening the employment and the poverty in Kosovo. In this respect, I have to mention that in the first part of July 2008 a new international donor’s conference for Kosovo will take place in Brussels which will facilitate the economic development of the state. Similarly, Kosovo’s Government has approved in cooperation with the European Commission, the European Partnership Plan for the period 2008-2010 which describes in details the obligations of Kosovo’s Government toward the processes of European integration. There are still some problems in the northern part of Kosovo which are notably supported by the politics of the past in Belgrade, but in the near future this problem will be solved through the cooperation of Kosovo’s Government with international community and the local population of that inseparable part of the Republic of Kosovo.

2. Could Kosovo's fate have implications for - or produce disturbances - in Bosnia in relation to the Bosnian Serbs?

Labinot Greiçevci: No, I don’t think so. There are several reasons that Kosovo will not have any implications in the fate of Bosnia and any other cases as well. First and foremost, Kosovo and ‘Republika Srpska’ differ in many ways, the main difference being that while in Kosovo there was a try to do a genocide against one ethnicity (in this case the Albanians), the ‘Republika Srpska’ is a product of the genocide. Before the Dayton agreement ‘Republika Srpska’ never existed, while the Dayton agreement legitimized to some extent the genocide that has been done against the Bosnians. Moreover, Kosovo is a unique or ‘sui generis’ case and this was recognized by the majority of the international community including here the Special Envoy of the Secretary General of the UN (Marti Ahtisaari). Consequently, this means that this fact was also recognized by the Secretary General of the UN. Furthermore, Bosnia and Herzegovina has signed the SAA with the EU and this means that Bosnia and Herzegovina is moving forward towards its European Integration and not to any ‘new Dayton or any new division’. The EU foreign policy needs to be applauded on this as well.

3. How would you comment the Russia's position stating that only UN Resolution 12449 provides a legal basis for Kosovo and arguing that Kosovo's declaration of independence is illegal, and that the EU's planned mission has no legal basis because it is linked to Kosovar independence and lacks a Security Council mandate?

Labinot Greiçevci: In fact, I have to re-say that Kosovo has been recognized by more than 40 countries who are UN members and this confirms that Russia’s position is more or less a way of expressing their frustrations from not having enough force to stop the independence of Kosovo. Moreover, I think that Russia is trying through Kosovo to point out that she is back in the international politics, but I don’t think they did it yet. Similarly, I don’t think that someone could quote the norms and rules of the international law, when this someone does not respect them (I am having in regard here, the Chechen problem and the problems with the provinces in Georgia). Thus, to some extent, this claim is immoral. On the other side, recently, we had a new report on Kosovo of the Secretary General of UN that opens the way for the new EU mission and for a smooth exit of UNMIK from Kosovo. I think that this new report creates enough legal bases for the new EU mission in Kosovo, even though that some delays may occur.

4. The EU planned to take over the international community's civilian functions in Kosovo from the UN mission around June 15, when independent Kosovo's constitution takes effect. It now appears that the UN mission will remain in place for some time to come, and that the EU's mission will not be up to strength until at least the fall. What are the reasons for this, according to you?

Labinot Greiçevci: I think that new report of the UN Secretary General for the re-configuration of UNMIK opens new perspectives for Kosovo. Thus, the UNMIK mission will be phased out and then EU mission will enter into force. It will take some time until October or at latest till the end of this year, but from now and on, I don’t see any legal problem for the new EU mission on the rule of law in Kosovo. The main reason behind this delay is the stated veto of the Russia in the Security Council. If we had an approval of Ahtisaari’s proposal from the Security Council the new way forward for Kosovo would be much easier. Nonetheless, the Russian veto could not stop the progress of Kosovo and the whole region of the Western Balkans. They reached to delay it for couple of months, but they could not stop it. I think that would be much better for the Russia to join the Western democracies in their positive and progressive policies towards the Western Balkans and not to obstruct it. The way forward of Kosovo and the whole Western Balkan countries has been opened and no one can stop their European future. It is much better to join it than to try to stop it without any result.

5. Do you think that the international community has been efficiently conducting the nation building process in Kosovo given the fact that the UN mission started already in 1999?

Labinot Greiçevci: I think that there is no black and white answer to this question. I will divide my answer as following. I can say that the UNMIK and the international community were quite successful in the first phase of state-building in Kosovo. Thus, the UNMIK (with the help of Kosovo people) was quite successful in the reconstruction process of Kosovo in the immediate post-war period and in re-establishing security in general. But, this can not be said for the second phase of state-building. I consider that the second phase has to do with institution-building and economic development. While on the issue of institution-building, international community was quite successful by helping Kosovars to build their democratic institutions through fair and democratic elections, on the issue of economic development they have failed. Moreover, there is still a need for further progress in the field of the rule of law in Kosovo. Similarly, Kosovo remained a poor country, with high unemployment was and largely spread poverty. But, the international community understood that the time came to move on to the third phase of state-building which started with the Declaration of Independence and which is being implemented in a day-to-day life till the moment. Thus, I could sum-up that Kosovo in some aspects reached the third-phase of state-building but having in regard the inefficiency of the UNMIK in some fields (such as the rule of law and the economic development) there is a need to address still some of the issues of the second phase of state-building. But, I think that with the new EU mission in Kosovo and with the help and support of the international community, Kosovo will very soon be a viable and self-sustaining state. Thus we will move onto the end of the process of state-building in Kosovo.

6. What are the priorities of the government's foreign policy?

Labinot Greiçevci: I think that the current priorities of Kosovo’s foreign policy are mainly three:
1) Work and progress on the massive international recognition of Kosovo’s statehood, including here the accession of Kosovo to different international political, economic and cultural organizations.
2) Policies and activities in stimulating new financial and economic foreign investments in Kosovo.
3) European Integration processes and NATO accession in the mid and long-term future.

7. What are the priorities of the government's domestic policy?

Labinot Greiçevci: There are several priorities in the domestic policy, but I would list three, which I think stay very highly in Kosovo’s domestic policy:
1. Full integration of the Serbian minority in Kosovo’s public life and institutions. Even though there are two ministers in the Kosovo Government, the one belonging to the Serb minority and the other to the Turkish minority, there is still a need for work on this field. Moreover with the new Constitution of the Republic of Kosovo, the Serbian language will be one of the official languages in Kosovo (equated to the Albanian language) despite the fact that the Serbs constitute only 8% of the whole population in Kosovo. Moreover, with the new Constitution of the Republic Kosovo the Serb minority, as well as the other minorities, will have 20 reserved seats in the Kosovo Parliament. This illustrates the generosity of the majority towards the minority, but in order to integrate the Serb community much better in Kosovo’s public life, the Kosovo Government is keeping this issue very high in its agenda.
2. Another priority is the economic development of Kosovo. Kosovo faced traumatic and negative trends on its economic development during the 1990’s. Similarly, in the last 9 years, Kosovo witnessed a very low economic development and there is a lot of work further on this. The Kosovo Government, as I mentioned above, prepared its strategy and the international donor’s conference will be a further stimulus to move forward.
3. Similarly, the education is another priority for the Kosovo Government. There are some policies and efforts on stabilizing and increasing the quality of the higher education system and this will be followed up by further improvements. In short, these are some of the main priorities of the Kosovo Government in the domestic policy. The better education will facilitate the project of the society of citizens in Kosovo. I think that this would be possible in the ‘New Kosovo’.

Labinot Greiçevci is Executive Director of the Research Institute on Statebuilding in Kosovo and Lecturer in Political Science and European Studies at the University of Business and Technology (UBT) in in Pristina.

Anna Dimitrova is sociologist, a guest lecturer at the European Institute of Advanced International Studies (IEHEI) in Nice and the UBT, Pristina, and an associate professor at the European Centre of International Management (IEMI) in Paris.

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