Farooq Mob Lynching: Why Government Cannot Magically Vanish Crimes

“History is the third parent.”

This one-sentence paragraph opens “The Blind Man’s Garden” by Nadeem Aslam. That is another way of saying—at least sociologically, scientifically, philosophically, geographically, economically and psychologically—that nothing in the world is independent of the rest of the others, if you look at the scene from any angle of the earliest of philosophers, scientists, sociologists, psychologists, geographers, psychogeographers and economists to those of the current moment. The system of interacting “things” forms a society, to speak sociologically. A government is the finest form of organizing a society that the society knows. Therefore, the political formation of society called the government, considering it is the “third parent” that produces the social mind of every individual in it, is ultimately responsible for everything about the individual.

This used to be high, uncommon sense in the pre-Socratic times—not unlike the knowledge that the earth is round which any grade one child of our time knows but used to bother the best of our ancient scientists, geographers and thinkers. Now if you write this seriously, you will be mocked for this hackneyed common sense. However, is there nothing above and below this common sense which is undeniably common now? The answer to this question is not so common. If something is not common, that is not common. If the sense being sought by this question is not common, then that sense is not common, which means that it is not in common sense. That said, something not being in the common sense of a particular society does not mean that it is not common (so common sense) in another. American common sense is different from ours. When the content of the sets of common sense of two societies may be more or less the same, their levels may vary, which means that the commonality between the common senses of the two countries has limitations.

This proves where Voltaire’s common-sense rhetoric does not work. However, importantly, even if common sense is so profusely common, that does not solve problems. I have three examples from Voltaire-related common-sense issues.

  1. During the Enlightenment age, Voltaire (among other thinkers including Rousseau, and also the medical doctors of the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries) “sensed” that masturbation was the cause of a real and deadly disease (one like onania, which was nonexistent)[1], and this “sense” permeated European societies so much that many youths avoided it while many youths had psychological problems born of the fear of that disease when they had masturbated, while still many more youths masturbated with gay abandon.

The physical reality associated with masturbation had nothing to do with the common sense they held back then. It was later proved by physicians that the old common sense was wrong.

  1. In his ‘Encyclopedie’ article on coquilles, Voltaire claims that the mystery of seashells being found on the top of mountains can be explained by the water forming calcareous shell-shaped drops (like stalactites and stalagmites).[2] Voltaire knew nothing about geology, and his sense of the coquilles phenomenon was very common after his publication of the book, but that did not made any enhancement in people’s real understanding of the phenomenon.
  2. In the distended confidence of the Enlightenment, Voltaire thought that the human mind was sufficient to understand the working of human society.[3] This idea was common among the Enlightenment thinkers and the common people sensed it too. This led to what the Austrian economist Friedrich A. Hayek regarded as huge mistakes, such as the French and Bolshevik revolutions, in which top-down political power was used to reorder the whole society based on a preconceived notion of social justice. In Hayek’s day (the middle decades of the twentieth century), this mistake was being repeated not only socialist countries such as the Soviet Union, which relied on rational planning and centralized authority, but by social democratic welfare states in Europe.

This was wrong, according to Hayek, for a number of reasons, the most important of which was the fact that no single planner could ever have enough knowledge about the actual workings of a society to rationally reorder it. The bulk of knowledge in society was local in character and dispersed throughout the whole society; no individual could master enough information to anticipate the effects of a planned change in the laws or rules.

I am not producing these things to discredit Voltaire generally. These are meant to show that what is most common to the mind—which psychologists would like to see in terms of the availability bias—is not always conducive to progress; it rather often stands in the way of progress. Steven Pinker’s latest book Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress (2018) and his 2011 book The Better Angels of Our Nature are full of data-based cases against common sense and the availability bias, not to say anything about thinkers and psychologists who have written about common sense, such as Deleuze and Malcolm Gladwell.

It is also worth adding a dimension to the idea of common sense here: common sense is not just common general knowledge of who’s who and what’s what. It is the most common form or substance of the ideology of the dominant class, which we are not so conscious of because it is so common that it has become part of our culture (that is, the unconscious), not any less unconscious of it than of how we groom ourselves, eat, drink, turn round to look, cross the road or withdraw money from an ATM.

This brings us to the idea that we need to raise the level of our common sense. The higher the level of common sense the happier a society is, and the higher that society’s expert sense. Raising our society’s common sense to the level of the common common sense we see among the so-called educated won’t make us much better off because our expert sense is not so much above common sense, common or not so common. Moreover, the common sense that the government, as the third parent, is responsible for every ill would be a cavalier way of finding a scapegoat for an evil. Pointing a finger at the government for every evil perceptible in society is the easiest thing to do. It is not to deny that our government is weak, cancerously corrupted in most of its organs and is irritatingly slow in responding. However, just because the government is suffering from these many diseases does not mean that our society is as bad as anarchy or lawless. We tend to overshoot and exaggerate things when we criticize the government just because we know that we have the luxury of freedom or rather impunity granted us by the very system we are criticizing. What explains that you and I do not just punch somebody into the face and make a hole there for the life of that person to leak out of that every time we are angry in a crowd or when we find somebody committing something unlawful (not necessarily a crime, not serious enough to make the person a criminal) while many people every now and then feel their blood boiling and find themselves being part of an act of mob justice and its result, mob lynching? Where did we get our common sense? Did the government selectively inject common sense into us?

How mob psychology works has very little to do with government policies. How an individual thinks is very different from how he or she thinks in a mob. Though the government gives the physical setting for the citizen’s mind, all the intricate activities of the individual’s mind and the interactions of the minds and their outcomes cannot be attributed all to the government. This is to commit the absolving the guilty of their responsibility, which makes magically vanish crimes and unlawful activities from human affairs.

 

Notes:

[1] Frank Furedi (2018). How Fear Works: Culture of Fear in the 21st Century. p. 136

[2] Ferdinand Mount (2018). Prime Movers: From Pericles to Gandhi—Twelve Great Political Thinkers and What’s Wrong with Each of Them. p. 194.

[3] Francis Fukuyama (2011 (2012)). The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution. pp. 251–252

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Thaçi Op-Ed: Peaceful Border Correction Serbia Only Way to Kosovo’s Political Future

Originally published on the official website
of the President of the Republic of Kosovo
on 16 September 2018

I am sure that in Kosovo politics, to the citizens of Kosovo, there is no doubt that we, as Kosovo institutional leaders must work together so that within a period as short, to end the talks with Serbia, signing the agreement on full normalization of relations between the two states.

We have fought against violent occupation by Serbia and have been liberated in June 1999. This story is well known to us all because it has united all Albanians and Kosovo with the West, primarily with the United States, the Alliance North Atlantic and the EU.

We, together with our allies, managed to make Kosovo a state in February 2008 and have since been recognized by 116 countries around the world.

However, we all know very well that the long-term stability of the state of Kosovo is inevitably linked to the membership of Kosovo as a state in the UN, the NATO Pact and the EU.

In this way, Kosovo will be forever and ever a stable state, a member of the family of peace-loving nations at the UN, a member of the most powerful military alliance in the world, NATO, and eventually also a member of the European Union.

We can not achieve these goals, we can not once and forever seal the fate of Kosovo as a state if in the coming months we will not make the legally binding agreement with Serbia.

Many of you may say that as a state we have deserved our journey to the UN, NATO and EU to be different, easier, faster and no longer dependent on the peace agreement with Serbia. You are right in this position, but it is the regional and international reality that imposes the normalization agreement for both countries as a necessary condition for joining the European Union.

The agreement can only be reached if the parties make a compromise. You can say again that Kosovo has already made all the painful compromises. I still agree with you. But reality is even more stubborn than our arguments. Recognition from Serbia has become a primary obstacle to our Euro-Atlantic journey. One can say that Serbia should recognize Kosovo unconditionally and within these borders. I also want the same thing. But do you think we will persuade Serbia to do so soon? Unfortunately, no. Yes, the EU and our powerful allies: the United States, Germany, England, France, Italy and many others, do you think it will convince Serbia to recognize Kosovo? Again, no. They have been unable to convince them to do so until now and can not guarantee they will do it tomorrow or in the near future. As a result,

To achieve this goal, I have proposed the option of correcting the border with Serbia. I have argued that the eventual agreement on peaceful border correction with Serbia, Kosovo ensures recognition by Serbia and the attachment of Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja to our country. I have been expecting rational arguments, but to date I have heard more noise and worse hate. Kosovo is a very small country to produce such hatred, which divides our society.

We all know that Kosovo has always been treated as a special case or “Sui Generis”, in the great international enterprise of solving every process around it. In this context, the fight for freedom, NATO humanitarian intervention, the declaration of Kosovo’s independence in a coordinated manner with the international community, supervised independence and state-building are just some of the features that have made Kosovo to be treated as a case of special. Domestic and international dilemmas have accompanied all these processes. So, on the eve of declaring the declaration of independence, there were concerns that Kosovo could serve as a precedent for other countries or regions in the world. But, these concerns became inaccurate. Also, another major concern was the fear of mass exodus of the Serb community living in Kosovo, shortly after the declaration of independence. Even this bias was wrong.

Kosovo is now an independent state and we are in the final stage of state-building. But even now there are dilemmas, just as before. Surprisingly, at a time when Kosovo has the chance to reach a peaceful agreement with Serbia, frustrated and in many ways, raised unsustainable concerns. The skeptics today have again come together to oppose the real option of peaceful border correction with Serbia as an opportunity for mutual recognition between Kosovo and Serbia. I repeat: the border correction between Kosovo and Serbia, as two independent states, which will recognize each other as states, will be an integral part of the border demarcation of 430 kilometers long.

Doubts in the legally binding agreement between Kosovo and Serbia are easily spreading fears for allegedly destabilizing the region and deepening ethnic divisions in the Balkans. They are creating panic and fog, inventing the same arguments, just like on the verge of declaring independence.

I have a high regard for all those who are rationally involved in this debate, but those who only produce noise and panic, regretfully say they are wrong.

In the past days I have had very important meetings with the main politicians of neighboring countries in the region. First I met Ilir Meta, the President of Albania, then in Montenegro I was welcomed by Milo Djukanovic, President of Montenegro, and finally talked to Skopje with Zoran Zaev, the Prime Minister of Macedonia.

In all of these friendly and sincere talks, I made it clear to our goal of the agreement with Serbia, ending the centuries-old hatred and maintaining stability in this part of the Balkans, but also our goal to further deepen cooperation and friendship with all countries in the region.

The peace agreement based on the border correction between Kosovo and Serbia, if achieved, will be fully in line with international law. Such a deal provides Kosovo with formal recognition from Serbia, secures the attachment of Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja and paves the way for EU, NATO and UN membership, thus strengthening stability and closing down the last conflict in the Balkans .

Therefore, the skeptics of this agreement can assure that now that there will be no border correction along ethnic lines, there will be no exodus of population and no domino effect as to the stability of this part of Europe.

Moreover, this peaceful agreement will put a heavy stone on the so-called “Pandora’s Box”, which these days are being sparked with much passion. And if one definitely argues and refers to an eventual peace-correction agreement as a precedent, then this case could indeed be used in the future as a positive precedent necessary to resolve interstate disputes only peacefully and not war .

The time of wars and conflicts between Kosovo and Serbia, for my conviction, has passed. But the end of this era will only be established when we make the final peace agreement between Kosovo and Serbia.

Not Going by Examples

Despite the better angels of our nature, we humans lie, deceive and betray each other, make mistakes, and fail to do things valued as good and these things become facts in history. A great deal of humans’ inter-personal and inter-community interactions draws on history–the memory of who did what. This is true especially in multi-ethnic community contexts where inter-ethnic contests prevail. The problem with examples and facts in human affairs, especially in multi-ethnic contexts, is that there is no dearth of examples and counter examples of one hurting the other and vice versa, and communities, when they go by facts and examples, continually find fault with each other and get caught in a spiral of vengeance, reducing human affairs to a tit-for-tat game or program.

A casual glance at any contesting multi-ethnic society will meet with enough evidence, from the subtlest to the most conspicuous ones, be it Naga-Kuki or Meitei–hill-tribes relations in Manipur, Hindu-Muslim relations in most parts of India, Serb-Bosniac relations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Armenian-Azeri relations in Azerbaijan and the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (now Artsakh or Nagorno-Karabakh Republic), or Abkhaz-Georgian relations in the former Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia (now Republic of Abkhazia) and Georgia, Serb-Albanian relations in Serbia and its former Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija (now Republic of Kosovo) among numerous others–every nation, especially at its inchoation, is a zone of conflict.

One primary reason for the persistence of inter-ethnic contests is each party remembering the harms the other party did to them and taking vengeance on them for the harms, thereby creating new facts or examples for the other community in turn to remember and seek vengeance for.

Study of all conflict zones in the world shows that going by examples does not help resolve conflicts. While revenge may be tempting and there is sadistic satisfaction to the destructive motives in us in taking revenge, it is worth seeing the reality that revenge does no good and taking double pains of not immediately satisfying our vengeful motive and of taming ourselves and trying to think up ideas and ideas that cut across ethnic and communal spaces serve the purpose of coexistence and progress. Ideas are seeds of possibility rooted in infinitude, while facts are finited imprints of ideas left in the actual human affairs by their actions. Facts are final  and exhausted, and they cannot be changed or improved, though subject to interpretation but not without contention. Ideas can be set high and adjusted endlessly for better practice. Thinking up ideas that transcend and cut across contesting communities and will bring them together to common interests rather than looking for hurtful facts and seeking vengeance will eventually show them the way to peaceful coexistence, making them see that they have more similarities than differences, and difference is not necessarily bad, rather it enables us to appreciate one another. It is not that facts should be ignored and history trumped; it rather is that facts should be valued as knowledge essential to our consciousness but not as part of our plans for the future.

 

EU Membership as Part of Kosovo Deal

Last updated 17 September 2018

One probable reason for Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić’s cancelling the EU-brokered meeting with his Kosovan counterpart Hashim Thaçi minutes before it was due is there being no clear guarantees that it would access the EU in 2025. The meeting was to discuss the territorial land border swap between Serbia and Kosovo. Serbia and Kosovo have been looking west for entry into the EU and the EU has told the two countries to first settle its disagreements between them. The land swap proposal is against oppositions from inside and outside Serbia and the country is going for the land swap as a price for its EU entry but there is no clear guarantee that the execution of the proposal (which is expected to resolve all issues with Kosovo) will get Serbia inside the EU.

Kosovo Serbia

In a Reuters interview on 13 September Vučić said if Serbia and Kosovo were to reach a deal with EU mediation, “Serbia would need to get clear guarantees that it would become an EU member state in 2025.”[1] He also added that the deal should also include a resolution of Serbia’s EU path and further economic progress.[2] Thaçi has also implied that a final agreement with Serbia should include mutual recognition, and pave the way for Kosovo’s membership in the EU, NATO, and the UN.

The campaigning for European Union parliamentary elections next May has already begun and the rise in popularity of right-wing political parties in Europe could dim the prospects of reaching a deal between Belgrade and Pristina. Moreover most Serbs view Kosovo as the cradle of their nation and Orthodox Christian faith and Serbia, under its constitution, considers Kosovo an integral part of itself.

The EU, however, is expecting Serbia and Kosovo to reach an agreement by the middle of 2019.[3][4] Vučić and Thaçi are expected to meet late this month. I fact, there are reasons to believe that the two countries will settle the issues with the proposed land swap more sooner than later. Writing on the official website of the President of the Republic of Kosovo on 16 September, President Thaçi expressed his strong conviction that “border correction” is the only way for Kosovo to win Serbia’s recognition and to EU, NATO and UN membership.[5] “We can not achieve these goals, we can not once and forever seal the fate of Kosovo as a state if in the coming months we will not make the legally binding agreement with Serbia,” he added stressing the urgency.[6][7][8] In another op-ed published by Blic on the same day, the Serbian President Vučić addressed the Serbian public in the same way using synchronized terms.[9]

References:

[1][2] Sekularac, I. (2018, September 13). Serbian President Says He Wants EU Membership Guarantee as Part of Kosovo Deal. Retrieved September 15, 2018, from Reuters: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-eu-balkans-serbia/serbian-president-says-he-wants-eu-membership-guarantee-as-part-of-kosovo-deal-idUSKCN1LT2EY

[3] Hahn: Kosovo and Serbia should reach agreement by the middle of 2019. (2018, September 14). Retrieved September 15, 2018, from European Western Balkans: https://europeanwesternbalkans.com/2018/09/14/hahn-kosovo-serbia-reach-agreement-middle-2019/

[4] Han: Naš cilj treba da bude da Kosovo i Srbija imaju dogovor do sredine 2019. (2018, September 14). Retrieved September 14, 2018, from Beta: https://beta.rs/vesti/politika-kosovo/97073-han-nas-cilj-treba-da-bude-da-kosovo-i-srbija-imaju-dogovor-do-sredine-2019

[5][6] Thaçi, H. (2018, September 16). Peaceful border correction between Kosovo and Serbia. Retrieved September 17, 2018, from President of the Republic of Kosovo: http://president-ksgov.net/sq/oped/korrigjimi-paqesor-i-kufirit-ndermjet-kosoves-dhe-serbise

[7] Thaci in an op-ed: Without a peace agreement with Serbia on border correction, Kosovo will not seal its fate as a state. (2018, September 17). Retrieved September 17, 2018, from Kosovo Sever portal: https://kossev.info/thaci-in-an-op-ed-without-a-peace-agreement-with-serbia-on-border-correction-kosovo-will-not-seal-its-fate-as-a-state/

[8] Thaçi: Without border correction, there will be no recognition from Serbia. (2018, September 17). Retrieved September 17, 2018, from European Western Balkans: https://europeanwesternbalkans.com/2018/09/17/thaci-without-border-correction-will-no-recognition-serbia/

[9] KOSOVSKO PITANJE Autorski tekst Aleksandra Vučića. (2018, September 16). Retrieved September 17, 2018, from Blic: https://www.blic.rs/vesti/politika/kosovsko-pitanje-autorski-tekst-aleksandra-vucica/ms91wqh

Serbia-Kosovo Meeting: Talking Without Talking

The EU-brokered meeting between President of Kosovo Hashim Thaçi and Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vučić which was due on 7 September 2018 did not happen. Both the presidents were at Brussels, Belgium, but they abruptly called off the meeting—they refused to speak to each other moments before their meeting was due to start at the EU’s headquarters leaving Federica Mogherini (EU’s High Representative who brokered the meeting) to meet them separately several times during the day to keep talks alive.

The meeting was supposed to discuss the border land swap between the two countries, which, if it happens, would likely see a part of southern Serbia centered on the ethnic Albanian-dominated city of Presevo transferred to Kosovo, while the Serb-dominated northern part of Kosovo, around Mitrovica, would become part of Serbia. Many hoped that the land swap would resolve the conflict between the two countries amid many objections from both inside the two countries and from many parts of Europe especially the volatile Balkan region. Many in the Balkan region fear that the swap, if it materializes, will trigger demands for similar deals in the already volatile region. They claim that it would set a dangerous precedent at a time when ethnic nationalism is already surging in Europe and beyond. In particular, the swap could fuel calls in other parts of the Balkans for borders to be redrawn along ethnic lines. Separatist sentiment among ethnic Serbs in Bosnia, ethnic Albanians in Macedonia or minorities elsewhere could strengthen.[1]

On a two-day visit to the Gazivoda Lake Dam in the Serb-populated parts of northern Kosovo on 8 September (one day after the cancelled meeting), Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić said “an agreement resolving his country’s dispute with Kosovo will be difficult to achieve given European opposition to remaking borders in the Balkans region.”[2]

The dam where Vučić visited is also a source of controversy. Part of the artificial Gazivoda Lake—which supplies water to some cities in Kosovo, including parts of Pristina, the Kosovar capital—is located in Serbia, where the source of its water exists. Serbia and Kosovo disagree over who should control the lake, most of which is located in a northern Kosovo region populated mainly by Serbs. The land-swap deal would allow Serbia to keep control over northern parts of Kosovo that are mainly populated by Serbs.[3]

Of Kosovo’s population of almost two million, roughly 90 percent are ethnic Albanian and some 6 percent are estimated to be ethnic Serb. Reliable numbers are hard to come by, but around half of Kosovo’s Serbs—high estimates reach 70,000—live in northern Kosovo, where they make up some 90 percent of the population. Because of its Serb majority, northern Kosovo (about 10 percent of the country’s territory) has been part of the country in name only since independence. Serbia has continued to hold political and economic sway there—Serbian List, the dominant political party representing the Serbs in Kosovo, runs all of Kosovo’s mostly Serb municipalities and holding the 10 seats that are reserved for the Serb minority parliament in Pristina. This leaves Kosovars with a sizable chunk of their country that has no interest in belonging to an independent Kosovo. In an interview with the Balkan Insight news service in October 2017 (a few months before his assassination on 16 January 2018), Oliver Ivanović (a Kosovo-Serb politician and former former State Secretary of Ministry for Kosovo) said that northern Kosovo was not really run by elected officials but from shadowy “informal centres of power.”[4]

The failed meeting puts further doubt into a possible land swap between the two countries that was floated by both Serbia and Kosovo last month.

Zoran Ostojic, an analyst from Belgrade, said he believed that Vučić and Thaçi are “testing the ground, primarily with the international community” by floating the swap idea.[5]

Mogherini is expected to seek another meeting with the two presidents late September though “difficulties exist.”

References:

[1]  Kupchan, C. A. (2018, September 13). An Offensive Plan for the Balkans That the U.S. Should Get Behind. Retrieved September 15, 2018, from The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/13/opinion/kosovo-serbia-land-swap.html

2. Serbian Leader Says Resolving Kosovo Conflict ‘Very Hard’. (2018, September 8). Retrieved September 13, 2018, from ABC News: https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/serbian-leader-resolving-kosovo-conflict-hard-57694606

3. Serbian President Makes Rare Visit To Kosovo, Says Finding Deal Difficult. (2018, September 8). Retrieved September 13, 2018, from Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty: https://www.rferl.org/a/serbian-president-makes-rare-visit-to-kosovo-says-finding-deal-is-difficult/29479135.html

4. McLaughlin, D. (2018, September 15). Kosovo’s murky politics cloud hunt for Serb politician’s killers. Retrieved September 15, 2018, from The Irish Times: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/europe/kosovo-s-murky-politics-cloud-hunt-for-serb-politician-s-killers-1.3629525

5. Serbia and Kosovo Presidents Cancel EU-brokered Talks. (2018, September 8). Retrieved September 13, 2018, from Aljazeera: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/09/serbia-kosovo-presidents-cancel-eu-brokered-talks-180907185906367.html

Kosovo-Serbia Border Territorial Swap

When Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, there were tens of thousands of ethnic Serbs and Albanians found themselves in countries where they did not ethnically belong or did not want to live in, especially in the Albania-populated parts of southern Serbia and the Serb-dominated parts of northern Kosovo.

There have been rounds of talks between Serbia and Kosovo and resolution has been elusive. This time, prior to the Brussels meeting due on 7 September, authorities of the two countries, President of Kosovo Hashim Thaçi and Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vučić, have informally expressed their desire to swap land between the two countries hoping it will permanently resolve the tension between the Serbs and the Albanians which began to worsen in the late 1980s that led to the Kosovo War in 1998–1999, which (besides killing over 10,000 people) left some 120,000 Serbs in ethnic Albanian-dominated Kosovo and some 60,000 ethnic Albanians in the Presevo valley in Serbia[1]. If the border territorial swap happens, it will obviously be mainly between these areas—the Serb-dominated part of Kosovo and some majority-Albanian districts of southern Serbia[2].

 Kosovo Serbia

The EU and American diplomats have given the green light [3] though they initially opposed the idea[4], but there have been sharp oppositions to and protests against the move from many parts of the Balkan region and other parts of Europe, especially Germany (which says this precedent is dangerous)[5], and from inside Serbia and Kosovo[6][7]. The pro-Serbian objection comes more from the perspective that the territorial swap would amount to Serbia recognizing Kosovo as an independent state.

Covering an area of 10,908 square kilometers and having a population of 1,907,592 (2018)[8], Kosovo (officially, Republic of Kosovo), is a landlocked territory in the Balkan Peninsula, bordered by Macedonia in the southeast, Albania in the southwest, Montenegro in the west and Serbia in the north and the east.

 

A disputed territory in Southeastern Europe, Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in February 2008, since when it has been a partially recognized state, recognized by 113 UN member states but not yet by the UN itself and five EU countries five EU countries—Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Spain. Some fear that any border changes might trigger similar demands elsewhere in the Balkans, especially in Bosnia, Macedonia and Montenegro, which like Serbia and Kosovo, were part of the former Yugoslavia. Serbia “technically” recognizes the administration of the ‘territory” by its elected government as the administration of its own Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija, not as a state called the Republic of Kosovo, though official administration of Kosovo is in not any more related to that of Serbia de jure and de facto than Serbia’s has to do with that of Montenegro or Macedonia or Russia.

According to the Statistical Office of Kosovo figures of 2011 census, ethnic Albanians and Serbs constitute 92.9% and 1.2% respectively of Kosovo’s demography while the Bosniaks, Goranis, Turkish and Romanis form the rest (5.6%).[9]  The Serb figure, though less than that of the Bosniaks, is significant considering the uncontested territory of Serbia, the homeland of the Serbs, in the north and the east. The tension between the ethnic Albanians and the Serbs throughout the twentieth century has had an impact on the shares of the two ethnic groups in the territory’s demography, especially against the influences from the neighboring states of Albania in the southwest and Serbia in the north and the east. The population share of the Serbs (scattered across the northern part of the territory, south of Serbia) reduced from 23.5% in 1961 to 18.4% in 1971 to 13.2% in 1981, and the years following the Kosovo War (1998–1999) witnessed a far more sudden and sharper decline, which was accentuated so much by Kosovo’s declaration independence from Serbia in February 2008 that the Serb population reduced to 1.2% in 2011.

The leaders of the two countries seem to think that the border territorial swap will permanently solve the dispute between the two countries. However, there have been several oppositions (including by the opposition parties and civil society organizations inside Kosovo itself) to the idea, which the leaders of the countries have not yet formally proposed. Serbian-American right-wing diaspora organisations and clergymen also wrote a letter to the US Congress urging it to reject the border-correction territorial swap.[10] US President Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor, John Bolton, had recently said Washington will not exclude or oppose controversial territorial swaps between Serbia and Kosovo if the two sides can agree on them.[11] Bolton spoke out against Kosovo’s 2008 unilateral declaration of independence long before he became Trump’s National Security Advisor.[12]

Notes:

[1] The leaders of Kosovo and Serbia talk about swapping land. (2018, August 30). Retrieved September 8, 2018, from The Economist: https://www.economist.com/europe/2018/08/30/the-leaders-of-kosovo-and-serbia-talk-about-swapping-land

[2] US Serbs Urge Congress to Reject Kosovo Partition. (2018, 9 4). Retrieved September 6, 2018, from BalkanInsight: http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/serbian-rightist-diaspora-asks-congress-to-reject-kosovo-partition-09-04-2018

[3] The leaders of Kosovo and Serbia talk about swapping land. (2018, August 30). Retrieved September 8, 2018, from The Economist: https://www.economist.com/europe/2018/08/30/the-leaders-of-kosovo-and-serbia-talk-about-swapping-land

[4][5] Cut and paste: Serbia and Kosovo. (2018, September 7). Retrieved September 8, 2018, from The Economist: https://espresso.economist.com/335396ce0d3f6e808c26132f91916eae

[6][7] US Serbs Urge Congress to Reject Kosovo Partition. (2018, September 4). Retrieved September 6, 2018, from BalkanInsight: http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/serbian-rightist-diaspora-asks-congress-to-reject-kosovo-partition-09-04-2018

[8] Demographics of Kosovo (2018). Geoba.se. Retrieved September 6, 2018

[9] Kosovo in Figures. (2016). Retrieved September 6, 2018, from Kosovo Agency of Statistics: http://ask.rks-gov.net/media/3672/kos-in-figures-2016.pdf

[10] US Serbs Urge Congress to Reject Kosovo Partition. (2018, September 4). Retrieved September 6, 2018, from BalkanInsight: http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/serbian-rightist-diaspora-asks-congress-to-reject-kosovo-partition-09-04-2018

[11] [12] US Won’t Oppose Serbia-Kosovo Border Changes – Bolton. (2018, August 24). Retrieved September 6, 2018, from BalkanInsight: http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/us-will-not-weigh-in-on-serbia-kosovo-partition-08-24-2018