The International Institute for Middle-East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES) regularly analyses events in the Middle East and the Balkans. The IFIMES International Institute has analysed the current political situation in Kosovo prior to the parliamentary elections to be held on 23 October 2004. The most interesting and important sections of the comprehensive analysis are given below:

The political institutions in Kosovo established after the first multiparty elections in 2001 have had a decorative rather than a functional role. The Kosovo Albanians were overwhelmed by the feeling of victory only because they gained their »own« institutions (in comparison with the Milosevic regime when the Kosovo institutions were »wrenched away« from the Albanian population) and consequently they believed more the pre-election promises than what they could see with their eyes. The presence of international military forces and civil administration, whose powers do not include the process of independence of Kosovo, was perceived by the Kosovo Albanians as the realisation of the independence process which they understood as the announcement and continuation of the Albanian political movement in Kosovo. Although the international representatives have often stressed explicitly in their political statements that the independence of Kosovo was not on their political agenda(!) the Albanian side remains convinced that this is part of a strategy to calm the Serbian political passions.
Actually that was a part of political discourse which the Albanians have acquired and used skilfully to their advantage in order to realise their political goals. Such discourse has remained from the period of Milosevic regime in Kosovo and the Albanians continue to recycle it even today. During the occupation of Kosovo, the Albanians were »trained« to confuse the concepts which are on the border between irrationality and reality. Due to the political manipulation they suffered, the Albanians and the non-Serbian nationals in Kosovo lived in ardent hope, developed out of the bare need to survive, that they lived in the Republic of Kosovo even when it was completely controlled by the Serbian administration. In the 1990s, the whole Albanian political establishment developed its political terminology to the level of perfection in terms of political manipulation. Even today the same pattern of thinking is present: the citizens perceive the temporary institutions as the Kosovo national institutions (the President, the Parliament and the Government) although they only have a decorative and ceremonious role within the complete legislative, executive and judicial powers of UNMIK. Even the Kosovo Protection Corps (TMK, the former UCK) is perceived by the vast majority of Kosovars as a real Kosovo army although it is merely an ordinary civil organisation with the mandate to intervene in emergencies. This kind of political discourse could have functioned for some time still as a long-term injection and result of political manipulation had the people not experienced the dramatic consequences of poverty. During the first two years after the war, there was a large number of non-governmental organisations in Kosovo which helped the population to rebuild the destroyed houses. However, after the Kosovo institutions were constituted, the non-governmental organisations, humanitarian aid and later also aid from developed countries were reduced. This reduction of humanitarian aid, which resulted in lack of investments as well as the blockage of the privatisation process, further contributed to the present political discourse and to venting frustrations on the UNMIK.
The riots in March 2004 in a way marked the »spending« of freedom which the Albanians have »enjoyed« for the past five years. For the first time they were faced with the dynamics of the use of political freedom which seemed sufficient at first sight, although it did not meet even the basic political rights nor fundamental human rights of the Kosovo citizens. The unnatural status quo established between the Albanians, Serbs and UNMIK administration (international community) was broken. The three sides have lived on false illusions and on the »story of success«. A process has been opened to establish new relations defined as the restructuring of UNMIK and the realisation of the standards for Kosovo. The violence of Albanian protestors against the UNMIK personnel and property clearly shows to what extent this feelings have been aroused as well as the need to change the form and content of the civil and international presence in Kosovo. Even five years after the war, the relations between the Serbs and Albanians remained hostile and intolerable. Although the roots to the Albanian-Serbian conflict go far back into the history, the non-symbolic irreconcilability between them could be linked to the inappropriate policy of UNMIK and the international community especially due to tolerance towards the Serbian parallel political structures in Kosovo and the actual division of Kosovo. With the political manipulation that arouses fear among the Albanians and hope among the Serbs that Kosovo would be returned to Serbia, the efforts to build normal relations between the two communities either within Kosovo or between Kosovo and Serbia can bring no results. As long as the status of Kosovo remains undefined, each side (Serbs and Albanians) will perceive the other as a threat. Maintaining status quo of utterly opposing projects, without giving a clear sign which of the two political processes will result in a legal and political status of Kosovo, has initiated and strengthened the ideologies and the following extreme political projects:

  • the project to retain Kosovo in Serbia and the reserve project to divide Kosovo, offered by the Serbian para-state structures which function undisturbedly, and

  • the political project to unite Albanian territories, which has remained within the discourse of political statements. These projects are encouraged by permanent instability in Kosovo and by the fading of the moderated project for the independence of Kosovo.

The majority of political analysts and politicians who deal with the development of political process in Kosovo and the region were surprised at the violent protests in March this year. Their expectations were based on the above mentioned political freedom which Albanians gained with the help of the international community, but they overlooked the changes which have been going on in Kosovo for the past five years and they did not take into account the political processes during that period. Though unrealised, the process of gaining independence of Kosovo constantly produced political and psychological frustration, but under the protection of the international community and NATO forces the general situation was perceived positively by the Kosovars. High unemployment and increasing poverty seemed less dramatic at first sight in comparison with the Serbian occupation. Retaining the Kosovo citizens in deep isolation or quarantine without passports and without the freedom of movement to the states of the region and elsewhere (even now, after five years, the UNMIK passports are not recognised by the vast majority of UN member states even though they are produced within the UN administration) brought about frustrations that were soothed after the Serbian passports were issued when the Serbian administration assisted by UNMIK opened offices in Gracanica, Kosovo polje and even in Pristina.
The conflict induced by the blockade of the road at Caglavica in March 2004 spread very fast to other locations and culminated in the burning of about 30 religious facilities of the Serbian Orthodox church and tens of Serbian business premises and houses. This proved that even after five years of peace the relations between the Serbs and Albanians are still hostile. Although the conflict is deeply rooted, the continuation of such inter-ethnic relations also reflects in the incapability of UNMIK administration to symbolically regulate them. Its toleration of the Serbian parallel structure of power and actual division of Kosovo (northern part of Kosovska Mitrovica) have pointed to the fact that UNMIK is incapable to exert its powers in Kosovo in line with the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244. The formation of Serbian para-state structures in the north of Kosovska Mitrovica and in Serbian enclaves within Kosovo are the indisputable fact which even UNMIK does not deny, aware that all these structures are financed by the government of Serbia. During all these years, the Kosovo Serbs were able to take part in local, parliamentary and presidential elections of Serbia held in Kosovo. The Kosovo Serbs typically (which is understandable) vote for the aggressive Serbian parties, i.e. the Serbian radical party led by Vojislav Seselj, which proves that the nationalistic discourse manipulated by the nationalistic ideology of the Great Serbia is still very much present among the Kosovo Serbs. Five years since peace was restored, the Kosovo Serbs have not managed to form a political party which would be able to integrate in the Kosovo society. In this view they represent a specific victim of political games which are played not for their political articulation but to satisfy daily political needs of Serbian politicians in Belgrade.
On the other hand UNMIK and Kosovo institutions have not managed to create a safe environment for the Kosovo Serbs. The lack of freedom of movement for the Kosovo Serbs is the first sign of the failure of UNMIK in this field. A large number of undiscovered crimes and killing of Serbs and Albanians has aroused mistrust and fear towards the Kosovo institutions on the part of Kosovo Serbs. This kind of fear aroused hope for the return of Kosovo to Serbia which would produce the feeling of retaliation for all the years of absence of the Serbian state in Kosovo. The project to retain Kosovo in Serbia and the reserve project of the Serbian division of Kosovo supported by the parallel Serbian para-state institutions create a vicious circle for the Serbs in Kosovo.
The recycling of conflict situation and permanent instability in this environment have indicated the end of illusions of all the three sides to realise their projects independently and unilaterally. UNMIK has failed to preserve the political inertia of status quo and also the standards for Kosovo have not been realised since the obligations arising from the Resolution 1244 were not met regarding the economic development and establishment of temporary institutions for effective administration. The Kosovo Albanians have failed in their tendencies to eliminate the blocked potential of Serbs and Serbia's presence in Kosovo either by constantly minimising or ignoring their presence or by forcing them violently out of this region.
In spite of the propaganda they produced with the March riots in Kosovo, the Serbs and Serbia itself have not managed to impose their policy for the future of Kosovo due to a very simple reason: their project failed already back in 1999 and can not be revitalised again. The Serbian success is based on weakening the Albanian political image rather than on improving their own political image. The project of the Parliament and Government of Serbia to decentralise or cantonise Kosovo also failed to achieve the planned goal - not because of the international community but due to the Albanian explosive potential which they have stored for this kind of projects.
The March riots have revealed the moral crisis and the crisis in trust in the political elite and modern institutions. The political elite did not manage to recant the sins with demagogical speeches which would replace concrete activities, calm down the feelings and accuse UNMIK for the situation, which was already clear on 17 March 2004. The reason for the attempted degradation of UNMIK was actually the inferior Albanian political elite, which has had a decorative role for the past three years instead of performing the political function and representing the interests of Kosovo citizens. The adoption of the constitutional framework which left the elected institutions without competence served as an alibi for UNMIK administration in order to be able to act irresponsibly and arrogantly towards Kosovo and its institutions whose functioning reveals political immaturity.
The elimination of moral, political and national consequences will not be an easy task for the Kosovo society with the absence of the will on the part of the decision makers to recognise the right to independent determination of the people of Kosovo. The delay in recognising that right, which could be expressed in a referendum carried out under the supervision of the international community, may lead to new frustrations towards UNMIK and new conflicts between the Albanians and Serbs in Kosovo which may be triggered at any moment.
The Kosovo political elite also bears the responsibility for the above situation. The LDK party (Democratic League of Kosovo) led and controlled by Ibrahim Rugova has a fixed idea of the independence of Kosovo. The political elite from LDK perceives the recognition of independence as the historical mission of this movement. The path to achieve independence (building of efficient administration, fight against corruption, efforts to return refugees, formation of structures to fight organised crime) is not quite clearly presented in their political discourse nor used as a means to reach this goal. This political concept sees the independence of Kosovo as the only alternative of the status of Kosovo regardless of the dynamics or quality of meeting the political standards set by the international community and Special Representative and confirmed by all relevant international political levels. Ibrahim Rugova remains the central figure in this party. His leadership so far has shown all the elements of autarky. Although the party held a congress in 2002, Rugova did not approve of the election of its presidency but decided to keep the structure from 1998 which he then appointed temporarily for the period of six months. There is no internal democracy in the party. In the period from 2000 to 2004, many Kosovo politicians, who influenced the life in Kosovo prior to and after the war, have distanced themselves from the party. In June, a group of deputies seceded from LDK and formed the party called Alternativa demokratike Kosovare (Kosovo Democratic Alternative) led by Edita Tahiri, the only woman in the Albanian delegation at the Rambouillet negotiations, who used to be closest to Rugova and the assassinated Dr Fehmi Agani. The consequences of withdrawal of LDK members who were for a long time identified with this party will be felt at the parliamentary elections which will take place on 23 October this year. It is interesting that Rugova has not shown even the slightest sign of anxiety due to such acts of his closest colleagues. He actually still represents the central figure in manipulating the feelings of the citizens as regards the independence of Kosovo. His most repeated statement is: »... we are waiting for the formal recognition of the independence of Kosovo...«!
The parties stemming from the war: PDK (Democratic Party of Kosovo) led by Hashim Thaçi and AAK (Alliance for the Future of Kosovo) led by Ramush Haradinaj reflect the demilitarisation process of UCK (Kosovo Liberation Army). Political self-determination of both parties is based on the project which comprises a historical dimension. The two parties benefit from the sense of political victory; namely, they won, together with NATO, the battle against Serbia. They arouse a feeling that in a crisis situation they could reach for more radical options if the political status of Kosovo were to be different from what the Albanians expect. As far as the political projects, administration and leadership are concerned, the two parties have a more dynamic approach in comparison with LDK, although their possibilities are limited due to coalition with LDK.
The best rating in this war-stemming political structure has been achieved by Bajram Rexhepi (PDK), Kosovo Prime Minister, who promotes the return of refugees to Kosovo, the rebuilding of religious facilities which were burned and destroyed in the March riots, the rebuilding of Serbian business premises and houses, the fight against organised crime and the restoration of trust between the Serbs and Albanians. Hashim Thaçi remains the central figure in PDK who occasionally launches brave political options for the solution of the Serbian issue in Kosovo. His latest idea for the solution of this issue was to use the model of the Ohrid Agreement to integrate the Serbs in Kosovo and in the Kosovo society in general. The Ohrid Agreement was concluded on 13 August 2001 between the Macedonians and the Albanians as the cease-fire agreement. The goal of the Agreement was the decentralisation of power whereby the Albanians gained more rights in the decision-making process. The decentralisation process under the Ohrid Agreement envisages that the Albanians in regions where they represent 20% of the population gain rights to: the use of Albanian language equally as Macedonian language, division of authority, proportional participation in the central power and formation of local self-governance based on the principles of European Charter on Local Self-Governance. The final aim of the Ohrid Agreement is to preserve the integrity of the state of Macedonia as the subject of international law. PDK and AKK fundamentally do not recognise these ideas, without any prior analysis, which points to complete discord among the political elite as regards the Kosovo issue and to the fact that the Kosovo political parties deal with their own problems rather than with the vital issues. In other words, the parties function autarkically in relation to the internal political project, but when it comes to general national interest they behave anarchically without adjusting their positions.
The IFIMES International Institute believes that during the period pending the parliamentary elections on 23 October 2004 there will be no room for imputing blame to any political group of liberal or social-democratic profile that could actually influence the Kosovo scene.
The liberal political room may let the Kosovo politician Veton Surroi join the game again, this time with the political party ORA supported by the urban masses and media personages and discretely backed by the international community and the large majority of non-governmental organisations and the civil society. At present the participation of the urban population in the political life of the Kosovo elite is very small if any. The formation of this kind of elite may therefore be expected, especially in large Kosovo cities such as: Pristina, Kosovska Mitrovica, Prizren, Djakovica, Gnjilane. However, in a society with the unemployment rate exceeding 70%, with mostly rural population, with a quarter of the population living in diaspora and with the political parties having »historical« roots, the process of equal social, regional, trade union, gender and age representation is very difficult and time consuming.
The IFIMES International Institute believes that the Serbian autochthon coalition »Povratak« (Return) will probably play a major role in the future process of the development of Kosovo. Fragmentation may be observed in the DOS political structure and the Serbian parties may be expected to have politically profiled movements, i.e. a national front instead of parties as such. From this point of view we may expect that they will have a more powerful role in blocking the processes than in the actual activities. They will probably block the processes of integration of Serbs in Kosovo and in the Kosovo political life in general.
The IFIMES International Institute is of the opinion that it will take a long time before Kosovo will see an authentic Serbian political party which would promote the process of integrating Serbs in Kosovo and which would not be influenced by Belgrade. In other words, it is not expected for a new political elite to be established within the Serbian community in Kosovo which would represent the authentic Serbian interests in Kosovo and be regarded as credible by the international community.
As far as the other ethnic communities are concerned it should be stressed that they are less engaged and keep their efforts on the level of preserving the national identity and advocating practical interests. In the new Kosovo reality, they would not have to integrate in the scheme of Albanian and Serbian political parties. The parties of the Turkish, Askhali, Romany and Bosniak communities will have to be supported in order to develop their own political alternatives in internal democracy in which human rights and the rights of ethnic communities would be respected.
Although fragmented, politically inexperienced and rivalled by other parties, the Albanian political elite in Kosovo has the historical mission of political self-determination and adheres to the position of advocating independence. One of the reasons why it can not withdraw from that position is that the Kosovo Albanians who experienced ethnic cleansing and genocide in 1999 see no other alternative to independence. Moreover, that position does not reflect Albanian nationalism but rather pragmatism of life. Anyway, during the three years of joint leadership with UNMIK, the Albanian political elite has entered the process of political emancipation and professionalisation of leadership, even though it is still at the beginning of that process. The transfer of competence may strengthen the sense of responsibility and professionalism and engage the political elite in eliminating nepotism, meritocracy and corruption which have appeared in the new Kosovo international administration.
The international community has opted for the policy of determining »standards before the status« although Kosovo has already entered the legitimate phase of defining the final status after the 2001 elections and forming the political institutions. Such policy comprises conflicting aspects due to the undefined status of Kosovo which is at the same time hostage to the general development of Kosovo and the norms for the fulfilment of the prescribed standards. The conflicting aspects of this policy are:

  • firstly, the undefined status of Kosovo disables an economically stable development. Without the final legal status, Kosovo can not be the subject of international institutions such as the World Bank and IMF (International Monetary Fund), nor can it ensure protection of capital to foreign investors;

  • secondly, undeveloped economy resulting in unemployment rate as high as 70% of the Kosovo population can not represent an attractive place for the refugees to return, which is a very important political standard for the definition of the final status;

  • thirdly, the inter-ethnic relations between the majority Albanian population and the Serbian ethnic community can not become stable if the final political status of Kosovo is not defined.

Another aspect, which opposes good neighbour relations, comprises the standards and the dialogue which the Kosovo elite should enable and implement - but how if it has no competence regarding foreign politics which is in the exclusive domain of UNMIK. This policy has led Kosovo into a vicious circle.
The IFIMES International Institute sees the solution to this situation in the policy of »independence and standards«. That means the recognition of independence while Kosovo remains a protectorate for a few more years. During this period they would fulfil the standards which are the condition for Kosovo to become a state. A similar model was used in East Timor which successfully passed the transitional phase of protectorate. Unless this policy is applied in Kosovo, there is imminent danger that the investments and achievements made so far in Kosovo become uncertain and questionable.