05 June 2007

There is way out of Kosovo deadlock



MOSCOW. (Sergei Markedonov for RIA Novosti) - Problems of the de facto countries in former Yugoslavia and the former Soviet Union remain a priority on the international agenda.


But it is absolutely clear that Kosovo's "final self-determination" will not be quick and triumphant.


The parliamentary election in Serbia proved the maxim that democratic procedures do not automatically ensure progress in a peacekeeping process. Almost all of the country's leading political forces (the radical party, Boris Tadic's democrats and Vojislav Kostunica's democrats) voted for its territorial integrity. The only exception was the bloc led by the Liberal Democratic Party of Cedomir Jovanovic. Nevertheless, about 40% of Serbian voters chose the forces that to a greater or lesser extent appealed to ethnic nationalism.


Today, Serbia is in the spotlight or CIS political elites. Kosovo's success in self-determination, supported by international institutions, will be a precedent that leaders of the de facto states in the former Soviet Union will be able to refer to in the future.


It does not matter that their attempts will be indignantly dismissed by the U.S. and European leaders. The Kosovo precedent already has its own laws as a political motto and an algorithm. In fact, leaders of Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transdnestr do not care whether their problems have anything in common with former Serbian-Albanian conflicts and the political claims of Serbia's former autonomy. The phenomenon of ethnical self-determination (supported by the mighty and powerful up to a certain moment) is very convenient for them. At the same time, the behavior of Serbian politicians, their ability or inability to find a compromise to protect the national cause will be carefully examined in Georgia, Moldova and Azerbaijan.


Neither the Serbian, nor the Azerbaijani or Georgian elites have resources to integrate disputed territories. In Kosovo, with its 90% Albanian population, any interpretation of the Serbian idea will be rejected by the majority of voters. The same can be seen in the ethnically homogenous Nagorno-Karabakh. Georgia does not have the real political potential to integrate Abkhazia either. As to South Ossetia, Tbilisi does have proponents among Ossetians, but it does not have mass support of the people. Consequently, even there its integration potential is limited. In Moldova, the key obstacle for integration of Transdnestr is the economic weakness of the "parent territory."


The other side of the problem, however, is that the Kosovo precedent does not just hurt Serbia or help Russia to secure a foothold in the CIS. It works against European integration and in favor of ethnical self-determination. In this connection, it is hard to avoid partiality in recognizing one's right for it and denying another's. Hence the need to work out common rules and criteria for recognizing an entity. We could draw a parallel to an elite club (and the international community is an elite club): to join it, one has to meet certain requirements.


The first criterion for recognizing self-proclaimed entities could be their validity as a state. Why doesn't the international community rush with Kosovo's recognition? The reason is quite pragmatic. It is not because of Orthodox Serbs, but because state governance there has been replaced with the clan system.


The second criterion could be a mother country's ability to control a breakaway territory by any means other than deportation and ethnic cleansings. What, apart from the "broad autonomy" rhetoric, can Georgia give to Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and Azerbaijan to Karabakh? After all, if these territories are re-integrated, Azerbaijan will get Armenians as its new citizens, while Georgia will receive Ossetians, Abkhazes, Armenians and Russians. In other words, re-integration should be assumed impossible if it can lead to a military conflict.


The third criterion could be the existence of democratic procedures in self-proclaimed states.


The fourth one - real (not Kosovo-like) guarantees of ethnic minorities' rights, secured by law and in real life.


And, the fifth could be the establishment of bilateral economic, diplomatic and other relations between a mother country and a breakaway territory.


Only by setting clear criteria for recognizing self-proclaimed territories will the international community be able to break the Kosovo deadlock and prevent (or, at least, minimize) the possibility of emerging similar precedents somewhere in Europe or Eurasia.


Sergei Markedonov is an expert at the Institute for Political and Military Analysis.


The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and may not necessarily represent the opinions of the editorial board.