Albanian Diplomatic Academy


Lecture by Professor Henry H. Perritt, Jr.

17 October 2005

Actually, Ambassador Bashkurti, if you wanted to go on for the whole hour saying nice things about me that would be fine!

Itís a real pleasure to be here once again.I am privileged to consider Ambassador Bashkurti a good friend.I admire what he has done during his career for the people of Albania and the people of the world. Iím excited about what heís doing with all of you to make sure that the Balkans have good leadership for the future.

What Iíd like to do this evening is to talk about three things. I hope I will say some things that you disagree with along the way because thatís the way we can have an interesting discussion and learn from each other.

First, I would like to talk about why the United States of America has interests in the Balkans. Second, Iíd like to talk about final status negotiations.And third, Iíd like to talk about U.S. foreign policy after Iraq.

I begin by enumerating the interests that the United States of America has in the Balkans. Too often there are people in America who say that America doesnít have any important interests in the Balkans.The first President Bushís Secretary of State Jim Baker said. as Yugoslavia began to fall apart, ďWe donít have a dog in that fight,Ē which is a Texas expression meaning, ďWe donít care.ĒOne month before the presidential election of 2000, Condoleeza Rice, the present secretary of state, wrote an article in the most prestigious foreign affairs magazine that said that the United States had no interests in Kosova and we should withdraw.

So itís very important that all of us who understand that America does have interests in the Balkans, to keep reminding everyone what those interests are.

First, we have an interest in there being stability in the Balkans. If there is not stability, violence can spill over to Europe and refugee flows can destabilize other countries.

Second, there is a significant Muslim population in the Balkans, especially in the Albanian community. Itís important for America to prove through action that it can embrace Muslims and work effectively with them.

Third, itís important for any great power to avoid failure. We have committed ourselves to build democracy and a prosperous economy in Bosnia, Kosova, and Macedonia.Itís in our interests to succeed and not to fail.

Fourth, we have specific interests in specific countries in the Balkans.Serbia is a big country and its history over the last 15 years have shown that it has immense capacity to make trouble and it will retain that capacity for a long time to come.So itís in Americaís interests to work with Serbia to make sure that instead of making trouble in the future, that it moves in the right direction.I have already talked about our concerns and commitment to Kosova, Bosnia, and Macedonia.

The other specific country Iíd like to mention is Turkey.Itís very important that Turkey be a success story because Turkey is an interesting and successful balance between a secular government and religious expression.Itís a balance thatís never perfect and has to be constantly readjusted over time.Itís important that Turkey succeed in maintaining its commitment to achieve that balance and to refine it over time.

Fifth, itís important for the United States to build democracies successfully. President Bush has said that promotion of democracy is a centerpiece of American foreign policy. As much talk as there has been about building a model democracy in Iraq, which is not going very well, we have already a commitment, and an opportunity, and considerable success in helping to build model democracies in the Balkans--just to mention two places, Kosova and Albania. Those can become model democracies.

Finally, we have an interest in adapting to the difficulties confronting the European Union. The EU may be so consumed for a period of time over its internal problems and the failure of its constitution that it is unable to fulfill the aspirations that other states have for membership. We must be creative in thinking about how other multilateral institutions can provide at least some of the things that people had hoped for from eventual membership in the EU; for example, the Council of Europe, NATO, and the World Trade Organization.

Iím happy to say that currently the Bush Administration seems to recognize that America does have interests in the Balkans and that the most important thing that we can do right now is to be actively engaged and to provide leadership in making sure that final status negotiations for Kosova begin right away, and are concluded promptly.

Now Iíd like to spend a few minutes talking about final status for Kosova.There are two somewhat different things that we should talk about in conjunction with final status negotiations.The first is technical and the second is political.

What I mean by technical is the agenda for final status negotiations.A list of different subject areas and issues that have to be worked through before final status negotiations can be concluded.Whatís on the list?First of all there are conceptual issues about how the conflicting ideas of sovereignty, self determination, and human rights are to be resolved.That is in large part a conceptual issue, but itís important in international law.

Second, the issue of whether borders are to remain the same or are to be redefined has to be addressed.The United States and the European Union have made it clear that we think the borders of Kosova should not be redefined, but I have no doubt that as negotiations proceed, some people will suggest that the borders should be changed and people will have to deal with that.

Third, final status negotiations can only be concluded through expression of a new constitution for an independent Kosova.And whenever you write a constitution, you have to make difficult decisions about the structures of government which allocate power among political institutions--the presidency in the assembly, and through voting and representation systems. Constitutions also allocate power between the cities and the rural areas, between the elites and the masses, between rich and poor, and among different ethnic groups.When you write a constitution you have to understand what institutions will protect human rights, which is just another way of saying that constitutions must provide for how the law will protect the weak from the strong.

Once a constitution is written, thatís not enough; final status negotiations also must include some kind of vision for how Kosova becomes prosperous economically.In my view, the biggest failure in the last six years is that no one developed a vision, let alone a plan, for how Kosova can have a bright economic future; not the UN, not the World Bank, not the EU, and none of the three major political parties in Kosova.No one has done the hard work to think through how Kosova achieves economical growth and creates jobs.

The reality is that independence wonít mean much if young people canít get jobs and people canít provide for their families.

Closely related to economic development is the need for some sort of claims resolution machinery. That is in part about privatization claims, itís in part about housing claims, itís in part about pension claims by Kosovars who believe that pensions to which they are entitled are being held in Serbia. This claims resolution challenge is also about belief by Serbian institutions that theyíre entitled to be repaid for their investments in Kosova.There has to be some mechanism to resolve all of those different claims.

There also has to be a plan for regional security.NATO may stick around for a while longer--or maybe General Lama [in the audience] will protect Kosova--or some other mechanism must be arranged that will make sure that Kosova can enjoy military security even though any Kosovar army will be much smaller than other armies in the region.

And finally there has to be a plan for energy and for regional economic integration because Kosova is not big enough and never will be big enough to be self sufficient economically.

Now thatís a very long list. I would argue that we could take just one item from that list, any of them, and that all of us together--weíre all pretty smart--and we could all take just one item and all work hard for a year before we had analyzed all the alternatives and picked the best solution.

There are seven items on the list and nobody is prepared with respect to any of them; not UNMIK, not the EU, not the U.S., and certainly not the locally elected institutions in Kosova.People have to quit fooling around and start getting prepared to deal with these hard issues.

Now to turn attention from the technical side of the final status negotiations to the political side, I just want to offer some observations.First of all, there is a serious problem with unrealistic expectations by the Kosovar Albanian public. The expectations are unrealistic in two respects, both of which are bad.The first expectation that is unrealistic is that final status negotiations will begin tomorrow and the day after tomorrow everyone will agree that Kosova is independent.The second way in which the expectations are unrealistic is that too many people believe that the day that Kosova becomes independent, the day after that. everyone will have job an will be rich.

Neither of those two things is true.Itís important that there be the kind of political leadership that helps people over time adjust their expectations to reality.

My second observation is that what some people consider to be extreme political positions are not necessarily bad at the beginning. Hereís why.When someone negotiates he needs to be able to say to his or her opposing negotiator, ďYou sound very reasonable and I would like to be able to agree with you, but I canít do that because I have this lunatic on my side. I have to be able to sell our final deal to the lunatic.ĒSome people have criticized those in Kosova now, like Albin Kurti, or sometimes Hasim ThaÁi who have expressed a very hard line--an unyielding--line on independence.Thatís not necessarily a bad thing at the beginning because it protects Kosovaís negotiating position.The Serbs know how to do that and Kosova should be as effective at negotiation as Serbia is.

But there is something that is very important if thatís going to work in the end.If for example youíre Albin Kurti, and you say, ďIndependence is not negotiable; we must have independence tomorrow,Ē you need to understand in your own mind how you will modify that position, and sell the realistic agreement that will not in the end give you everything you said you wanted.You canít say that publicly because that would undercut your position, but you have to know how that position gets modified as negotiations move forward.

My third observation is that Serbia is very good at public relations and Kosova is very bad at it.Almost every week, there is a story in a major U.S. newspaper or on the U.S. television quoting some senior governmental official from Serbia saying things like, ďMilosevic is behind us.We have embraced democracy and rule of law.You should support us and not make trouble for us by forcing independence for Kosova on us.ĒAnd they say this in a very appealing way to people that donít know anything everything about whatís really going on.

But there havenít been any statements in the U.S. press or TV from Ibrahim Rugova, or Bajram Kosumi, or the speaker Mr. Daci, or Hasim ThaÁi, or Albin Kurti, or Ramush Haradinaj.Now Mr. Haradinaj canít be blamed for that because he is prohibited from making public political statements.My hope is that in the next several weeks we will hear much more from all of those people to help people in the United States, and Germany, and Britain, and Belgium, and so on to understand Kosovaís side of this story. In the end it will be public opinion in these other places that determines the positions of the great powers as the negotiation process goes forward.

My fourth concern is that there is a great risk that what comes out of the final status negotiation will be a muddle.My own instinct is that the best outcome is simple and straightforward.Kosova should be an independent state, and it should have sovereignty, and it should be recognized by other states of sovereign and that that should happen next year.

For people who are concerned that that would be too risky, that Kosova might not be ready politically, legally, or economically for that, I would argue that there are some simple sources of leverage for the international community with respect to a fully independent Kosova.First of all Kosova is going to need security assistance, military security assistance, from somebody else.This is a dangerous neighborhood, and Kosova is not big enough to take care of itself.

Second, Kosovaís economy is in very poor shape and whatever the plan is for economic prosperity there will be a period of five to ten years or longer when Kosova needs substantial economic assistance from the international community.

Both the need for military assistance and economic assistance are powerful sources of leverage to make sure that an independent Kosova continues to cooperate with the international community in pursuing goals that everyone has already agreed on including respect for human rights and a rule of law.

Even if that is the right idea, itís going to be very difficult for people to agree on that outcome.The leadership of Serbia cannot afford politically to embrace that even if they know in their hearts that it eventually will end up that way.And so that means that the Serb representatives in final status negotiations will be performing as you would do on a stage for their nationalists back home.Also, the people in the middle, the European Union and the United States, Russia, China, who do, after all, have vetoes on the Security Council of the United Nations, are going to be under a lot of pressure.

What worries me is that the United States might leave too much of this to the European Union.The European Union has great difficulty making hard decisions.Thatís not a moral failure; itís a result of the political structure of the European Union.We have seen recently that it continues to be a problem when we saw the difficulty in agreeing on a draft constitution for the European Union which then was voted done in France, of all places.

If the European Union is too much in the driverís seat, the correct answer to final status will be too hard to agree on and weíll end up with is a muddle.We wonít call it ďUNMIKĒ anymore, maybe ďEUMIK.Ē Maybe it wonít be called that but the European Union will have some kind of supervisory responsibility in Kosova.Well, the European Union has always, since 1999, had final decision making authority with respect to economic affairs, under Pillar IV.A senior diplomat for the European Union named Nikolaus Lamsdorff was in charge of Pillar IV. His only accomplishmentóhis only accomplishmentówas to stop privatization for 14 months.That is not the kind of help that Kosova needs from the European Union or anybody else.

People talk about conditional independence.I donít think anybody knows what that means.One thing it might mean is that you give a little bit of independence now and you dole out additional pieces over time according to certain criteria.Well thatís exactly the same thing as ďStandards before Status,Ē and that didnít work.Another thing it might mean is that you give all of the sovereignty now and you take pieces of it back over time if people donít perform well.Thatís usually a very difficult thing to do anywhere in the world.And thatís what ended up as the system in Bosnia.

At the beginning, Bosnia had complete sovereignty; it was an independent state, had been recognized in the international community even before the war. The Dayton Accords didnít change that.What happened over time is that the Office of the High Representative has taken on the authority to veto governmental decisions by the Bosnian government and to prohibit people from standing for, or holding, public office .That is not a success story either.

It may be that I just havenít been imaginative enough to understand what conditional independence really means.If it means one of those two things, itís a bad idea and people, including the political leadership of Albania, should stop talking about conditional independence as though it were a good idea.

Whatís necessary for us to have a chance to get the right kind of final status is for the United States to remain actively involved and to push.That should not be done in the spirit of antagonism for Europe; it should be done with a sophisticated appreciation of the internal political dynamics of Europe.We should be helping senior European officials participating in this process deal with their own political problems rather than publicly reprimanding them or shaming them.Real political leadership is helping other political leaders deal with their own political problems.

The good news is that the Bush Administration now recognizes that we do need to provide leadership in the Balkans. With respect to Kosova, the President and the Secretary of State have put some of very best people to work on final status for Kosova. I hope that that level of interest and commitment will continue.The other piece of good news is the Bush Administrationís commitment to U.S. unilateralism.Before I go on I should tell you that President Bush is a Republican, Iím a Democrat.I have been very critical of the Bush Administration foreign policy, and, to speak plainly, I believe that the invasion of Iraq will turn into the worse foreign policy mistake in U.S. history.

But, I think that the Bush Administrationís commitment for the U.S. to act unilaterally when multilateral institutions are not performing their functions can be helpful and should be adhered to in the case of Kosova.We should push and stand firm and be as creative as we can through the multilateral process that is being put together. But, if in the end final status negotiations arenít producing any final status, we should be prepared to act unilaterally.That might mean a variety of things, but I can think of one example of unilateral action that might or might not be helpful or necessary. Itís something we can keep in mind: the United States could recognize Kosova as an independent state regardless of what anybody else thinks.In any event that might be a useful threat to make sure that other people keep the process moving.

Let me make just a few observations about U.S. foreign policy after Iraq.Iraq is going very badly and I think that everyoneówhatever their attitude was about the invasionóI think everyone hopes that Iraq will turn into a model democracy after all.That would be far better for the people of Iraq, for the world, and for the United States than the alternatives.But most people who know anything about Iraq think that that is very unlikely and that the best thing that is likely to happen is that Iraq would be partitioned into a Kurd region, a Sunni region, and a Shia region and that those three regions would be in a more or less perpetual state of low-level civil war with each other.

The far worse possibility is that Iraq will become a big version of Afghanistan or Sudan: a breeding ground and haven for people who want to engage in world-wide terrorism against civilians.Both of those would be very bad outcomes. Nobody wants those outcomes.I am confident that everyone is doing their very best to try to prevent those outcomes, and therefore it doesnít do any good just to criticize.The invasion happened, whatís going is a reality, and whatís done is whatís done.

While we manage the Iraq problem as best we can, we need to think about the future.One thing about the future of U.S. foreign policy is very good. This president and future presidents, whether they be Republican or Democratic, will be more willing to act unilaterally.Thatís a good thing as long as we donít do it too often and as long as we donít do it insultingly. as we did with Iraq.The reality is, with respect to Kosova we acted more or less unilaterally in the sense that were not willing to let the UN Security Council, through a Russian and Chinese veto, prevent international intervention.We knew they would veto it and we organized the NATO intervention anyway and that was a good thing.

On the other hand, that does not mean that multilateral institutions are unimportant. They are very important.The United Nations, for example, is very important and the fact that it doesnít work very well doesnít mean we should give up on it; it means we should try to fix it. That will require U.S. engagement and leadership.Dick Holbrooke, when he was Ambassador to the UN, and Jesse Helms, when he was the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, proved how much can be done in a short period of time when there is commitment.And the very idea that Jesse Helms and Dick Holbrooke could work together was astounding to everyone. We need more of that kind of leadership.

The final observation about U.S. foreign policy is that, after Iraq, it will be easier for countries like Germany to break ranks with us.The result is that we may have to go it alone even when we want company.That weakens us compared to the time when could say, ďWe really need to do this,Ē and everybodyóor almost everybodyówould fall into line because America wanted to do it.

Now I just want to say two more things of a broader nature.

First of all as, Ambassador Bashkurti said, Iíve been to Kosova 15, close to 20 times. My Kosovar friends often say that they appreciate how much America has done for Kosova.And I say to them that Kosova has done a lot for America.

In my own case and in the case of about 15 law students in their early 20s that I have taken to Kosova over the years, weíve heard stories of people in Kosova who are aged 18-20 couldnít stand it anymore and picked up a gun and decided to fight for their future even though they thought they might get killed and didnít know how they would win.

That helps us remember that 230 years ago something similar happened in America.We had a bunch of kids who didnít have enough weapons, for whom there wasnít enough money even for shoes. Their generals didnít have experience, and nobody else in the world cared about them.

But they fought anyway.

Itís good for Americans to be reminded of that.Thatís what we get, what we Americans get from learning about Kosova.

The final thing I want to say is this: Any serious review of the challenges for the Balkans and for Kosova going forward, says that the biggest gap is a leadership gap.Final status is in question because of inadequate leadership now.

Even if Kosova becomes independent soon, final status and independence wonít mean anything unless there is good leadership.

And you can do something about that. Thatís why youíre here. Iím glad to be here with you.