IISS/CEPS European Security Forum

Chairman's Summing-Up

On 28 May, the second meeting of the CEPS/IISS European Security Forum focussed on the Kosovar/Albanian Insurgency and Balkan Security – in other words, the current Macedonian crisis was at the heart of a discussion which greatly benefited from three well-focussed papers, speaking from clearly distinct geopolitical perspectives.

Thus Nicholas Whyte suggested tongue-in-check that this time, Europe's hour had finally struck, that Europe's broad-spectrum systemic approach gave the EU pride of place in dealing with the Balkans. For the short run, he mentioned the risk of Kosovar guerrilla activity against KFOR if the latter's presence were seen as the main obstacle to independence – an "Irgun scenario", as it was dubbed by the chair.

Dana Allin's American viewpoint emphasized the exemplary quality of US-European cooperation vis-à-vis the Macedonian crisis, while emphasizing the need to discuss the insertion a NATO force in that country.

Nadia Alexandrova Arbatova's presentation contained an element of Russian Schadenfreude at the spectacle of NATO being hoist with its Kosovar petard in Macedonia. She suggested inter alia to extend KFOR's mandate into Macedonia. She also considered that the need to exclude the prospect of independence for Kosovo was the basis of stability in the region. This was hotly disputed in a discussion enriched by the substantive participation of analysts and representatives from Macedonia and Albania. A number of salient points can be drawn from the proceedings.

First, there was little support for a direct, and forceful foreign military intervention. From a Macedonian perspective, the insertion of a NATO force (whether new, or as a UN-authorised extension of KFOR) would have substantial drawbacks: as in Bosnia and in Kosovo, it could lead to, or entrench, territorial partition; and by establishing a de facto protectorate, it would produce the same political, economic and social distortions as in other parts of the former Yugoslavia. In other words, everything should be done by the EU, NATO and by the international community more generally to help Macedonia deal with the crisis. Naturally, such assistance has to be accompanied by the sort of political initiatives and military conduct which would help avoid further alienation of the Albanian-speaking population. This "finding" against forceful foreign intervention – at least as long as there is a prospect for an internal solution – was possibly the most important result of the meeting. However, the case against the insertion of foreign troops in Macedonia should not be overstated. After all, a UN Peacekeeping Force – including US forces – successfully played a crisis prevention role in Macedonia for close to ten years. Trouble from the UCK began only after these forces had left Macedonia as a result of China's refusal to review the Security Council's mandate, subsequent to Macedonia's recognition of Taiwan in 1999. (Note: Macedonia's recognition of Beijing in June 2001 may help reestablish a UN-based option.)

Secondly, the role of transnational crime in the current situation was underlined, given the close interests which exist between local or regional mafias (which incidentally bridge inter-ethnic gaps when it is in their "bizness" interest to do so) and the failing states in which they operate.

International cooperation against money laundering was key in fighting these phenomena. But it is no less necessary for law-and-order to be more fully implemented locally at least in Kosovo, even if this could run against the "force protection" imperative. Indeed, while it is well understood that KFOR could hardly control the roughest stretches of the border between Kosovo and Macedonia, it is more difficult to explain why maffia infrastructure and UCK arms depots in Kosovo weren't being more systematically dismantled. It was time to give the lie to the joke: "Welcome to Kosovo: your Mercedes is waiting for you!". In this respect, it was noted that criminal groups prosper in so-called "gray zones" of indeterminate legal status and uncertain political provenance, of which Kosovo is a vivid example.

Thirdly, the point was made that the international community in general and NATO in particular needed to ponder the proposition that it may have become part of the problem rather that part of the solution. In a sense, we "invited" the UCK to destabilize Macedonia by stating that independence for Kosovo had to be avoided since it would provoke the destabilization of Macedonia; the UCK has not surprisingly been doing its utmost to destabilize Macedonia thus voiding the syllogism of its logic.

The discussion was not conclusive on this issue of Kosovo's "final status". As one participant emphasized, the international community may have displayed an excessive attachment to the status quo: independence is habitually rejected for Kosovo in the name of Chechnyan or Basque precedents – but then, why do we assume that this has to be the case (other than as a self-fulfilling prophecy)? Here mention was made of Slovakia, a country which had no constitutional right to secession nor any prior internationally accepted record of independence – yet Slovakia's independence has not been contested; nor did it create a precedent.

It was noted that democratic Serbia may well be moving away from the traditional claim on Kosovo (why would Belgrade want to lay claim on two million disaffected Kosovars?), eventually opening the way to independence. En attendant, it was suggested that the international community should establish formal guidelines when establishing protectorates such as Bosnia, Kosovo or East Timor, possibly reviving the UN's Trusteeship Council.

Finally, the view was widely expressed that the US would most probably not quit the Balkans in the near future. A unilateral US departure could prompt a European departure, thus leading to a particularly unwelcome implementation of the principle "in together, out together".

It was also noted that, however destabilising the Albanian guerrilla operations may be in Macedonia, this was not a movement which was supported by the Albanian state. Indeed, the UCK's demand for Greater Albania is distinctive in that it does not enjoy the backing of the country in whose name it is being voiced. This makes for a situation which is intrinsically different from that which characterised the "Greater Serbia" of Milosevic, which deliberately undermined the neighbouring countries in which significant numbers of Serbs lived.

François Heisbourg