Symposium on the Final Status of Kosovo,

Chicago-Kent College of Law, Illinois, USA,

16 and 17 April 2004

The status of Kosovo and the stability of Macedonia[1]

Prof. Dr. Abdulla Aliu

What can be said from the current situation is that the current, undetermined status of Kosovo, is reflecting the whole region, in particular Kosovo’s neighbors, including Macedonia. In this presentation I will discuss on the influence of Kosovo’s status on the stability of Macedonia.

This influence of the Kosovo status is reflected and will be reflected in Macedonia in the political aspect, but also on the security and economical aspect.

On the outside form the influence of the undetermined status can be seen in the fact that the country leadership of Macedonia has no clear and coherent policy toward Kosovo, in the first place because they do not know clearly if Kosovo will become an independent country or only a part of another entity, which will be represented an decided upon by Belgrade (Serbia). The support for any of these two possibilities threatens with grave relations with one of the two neighbors of Macedonia, but also with its internal destabilization. Therefore the leaders of Macedonian ethnicity state that any solution for Kosovo made by the international community will be acceptable for them.  It means the solution that would also be acceptable by Albanians.

The political and legal status of Kosovo, the current and the eventual one, influences Macedonia, mainly because of the ethnic composition of the population of Macedonia. As, I believe, most of the present already know, the population of Macedonia is comprised of mainly two ethnic groups, Slavic Macedonians and Albanians. Somewhere between one fourth and one third of the population are local Albanians, most of them closely linked geographically and historically with Kosovo. Macedonia Albanians comprise a compact territory, the western part of Macedonia, a territory, which mainly borders Kosovo and less Albania. (Up to the establishment of the University of Tetovo and later the University of South-Eastern Europe, both in the town of Tetovo - the second biggest in Macedonia and overwhelming Albanian inhabited –Macedonia Albanians used to go to Kosovo, to study at the University of Pristina. Due the nonexistence of the Macedonia’s borders at the time of former Yugoslavia many Albanians from Macedonia and from Kosovo created joint families. And prior to the establishment of Macedonia as an independent entity in 1945 most of the lands of Kosovo and of Macedonia were even more tied together as to the administrative relation).

Macedonia is facing a challenge with efforts to maintain the country unity. The Framework Agreement, which ended the armed conflict in Macedonia in 2001, between the Albanian rebels and security forces of the then government, as such is not enough for the stability of Macedonia. The needed mechanism for bringing to life this agreement, which is to allow Albanians more power are being implemented very slowly and with many difficulties, causing also a frustration within some parts of the two communities. The greatest (Slavic) Macedonian and Albanian party in Macedonia are openly asking for the partition of the country on ethnic lines, excluding cohabitation as a possibility.

The international community is opposing the partition of Kosovo and other countries in the region on ethnic lines. But lately the pressure from Serbia for a territorial division of Kosovo based on ethnic lines has got stronger and many outside Kosovo commented on the option. Serbs live almost everywhere in Kosovo, but they comprise a compact territory in northern Kosovo, and they maintain as a goal publicly stated by their political representatives to keep the territory where they live in under the authority of Serbia.

The resolution of the status of Kosovo through partition on ethnic lines would have its greatest and heaviest impact on Macedonia since it would give strength to currently not so supported arguments and positions for a federalization or full partition of Macedonia on ethnic lines, especially among the Albanians in Macedonia. On top of this a Macedonian-Albanian agreement for such a division is difficult to be generated. It is also to be expected that Macedonia’s neighbors will maintain that they have a role to play in an eventual re-composition of Macedonia. Even now Serbia does not acknowledge the independence of Macedonia’s Orthodox Church, Greece, and because of Greece United Nations also, do not recognize the name of the country, while Bulgaria finds difficult to acknowledge Macedonians as a separate nation.

Therefore an ethnic partition of Kosovo, no matter eventual efforts by the international community to control it, can bring a chain reaction of worsening the security situation in the whole region.

Although it is not directly linked with the issue of the status of Kosovo another fact which can remind on the link between the status of Kosovo and the stability of Macedonia is the problem with the demarcation of the border between Kosovo and Macedonia, on which Macedonia is insisting after an agreement it has made with the official Belgrade. Albanian villagers on both sides of the border have protested for practical reasons – their lands passing on the other side of the border and the difficulties on movement – this problem has proven much greater implications. Demarcation of this borderline has remained a hostage to the status of Kosovo and a potential threat for the security in the region.[2]

On the other hand the resolution of Kosovo’s status as a whole entity, without a full or powerful division on ethnic lines, would also strengthen the unity of Macedonia, which would lead to a greater political stability in Macedonia. Albanians in Macedonia would have more motives to strengthen a joint country of theirs and Macedonians, and Macedonians would have to accept they can’t have a mono-ethnic country or a country with first and second class citizens, but a joint and tolerant country.

After the conflict in 2001, Macedonian country leaders, including the President of the current Government, have changed the approach toward a unified Macedonian state, by creating a coalition with Albanian parties created by former rebels, creating hope that Macedonia’s future is the sincere cohabitation, the inclusion of the Albanians in the state and other institutions, in proportion with their number, and hope for the recognition of the Albanian language as a second official language.

The international community should have a same approach for the equality of the ethnicities in the region, in order not to create frustration on the inter-ethnic equality.

A hypothetical possibility for the resolution of the status of Kosovo is the putting of Kosovo under the authority of Serbia, which in fact is the initial position of Serbia. This solution, even if Kosovans would be forced to accept it, represents a threat for Macedonia also. Such a solution would raise the tendencies of Belgrade to put under control or administration Macedonia as well, just like some time ago, deepening this way the antagonism within Macedonia. Macedonia, which is fragile on ethnic, religious and political lines, would have near itself a much bigger and unstable entity.

The current unresolved status of Kosovo is having impact in Macedonia on the economic side as well. The foreign capital and investment, which can bring economic development, are closely linked with a country status recognized in the UN. Not only because of the physical security, but also because of the legal obstacles, as is being proved with the deadlock in privatization and international loans. Remaining behind Kosovo is risking becoming a black hole and a source of regional instability, with its large number of the unemployed and desperate people. If one of the countries in the region, like Kosovo for example, remains in such an uncertain situation, its clear that the investors will not go to Macedonia either. The weak infrastructure in Kosovo can also hamper the economic development of Macedonia.

Based on all this one can conclude that the status of Kosovo is attracting complications in regional issues. Kosovo neighbors have a interest to be included in the result of the eventual talks on the final status of Kosovo, but this does not mean that they have to be invited in those talks. The impact of Kosovo’s status or borders on its neighbors in the past, but also in the present, is used as an excuse against major changes in the status of Kosovo. But it is the denial of the independence of Kosovo the position, which is endangering the region. Independence would make possible Kosovo’s functionality and development.

Kosovo, as an independent entity, can be conditioned on its political and economical activities in the international scene by the international community with the demand that is respects the borders of its neighbors and builds with them good relations and cooperation toward the joint integration of the region in Euro-Atlantic structures. Kosovo can also be conditioned with the demand that all the communities in Kosovo, Serbs in the first place, are entitled to proper rights and be happy with their position. These conditions should be monitored carefully by international organizations. And up to a more significant fulfillment of these demands the security of Kosovo should remain for unlimited time in the hands of NATO, but also should be guaranteed by NATO.

The independence of Kosovo without any conditions, however, creates a legal base for a more fruitful and quicker cooperation between the independent Kosovo and the international community.

Kosovo’s leadership and people, as those in other countries in the region, are aware that Kosovo has to fulfill a dozen of conditions in order to join the European family and the international community, something which should eventually happen.

(The author is a professor at the University of Pristina, School of Law, in Pristina, Kosovo and has a Ph.D. in Civil Law.)

[1] Kosovo and Macedonia, since the year 1945, were constitutive units of former Yugoslav federation. Although these entities had different names, Kosovo a Province and Macedonia a Republic, at the beginning had same level of economic development, today Macedonia is much more developed than Kosovo. Macedonia today is an independent country, accepted in the United Nations with the name of Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

[2] Kosovo has its administrative borders, which according to the Constitution of the 1974 (changed by then Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic in 1989), could not be changed without the approval of Kosovo.