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Ireland and Kosovo

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1922 2/6 value King George V stamp overprinted...
1922 2/6 value King George V stamp overprinted Saorstát Éireann 1922 for use in the newly independent Irish Free State (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Elements of the Irish-English settlement may offer a model for how a Kosovar-Serbia deal might be made, including recognition that the creation of an ethnic state cannot proceed peacefully on the back of forcing an ethnic minority to join.

By Gerard M. Gallucci

The history of Ireland presents interesting points of similarity with that of Serbia and Kosovo, as well as clear differences.

At the dawn of history, Ireland was a land of Celtic tribes. It was one of the first nations to be converted to Christianity in the 5th century. The Celts struggled to maintain their existence through waves of invasions by Vikings, Normans and English. The history of the Irish from the 12th Century to the last was one of reaction to foreign rule and the struggle to preserve their Catholic faith.  The Irish sometimes made their accommodations with their foreign rulers but never abandoned the quest to regain independence.  In 1916, in the Easter Rising, the Irish rose again against English rule. The small band of rebels in Dublin didn’t expect a military victory but to reaffirm the Irish demand for independence. They were defeated in six days. But thanks to the British overreaction – they executed all the leaders and imprisoned many – the Irish people rallied around the nationalist cause and supported a guerrilla war that finally led the UK to accept a treaty in 1921.  It recognized the independence of the Irish Free State.

The British, however, forced the Irish to accept a deal which kept Ireland within the British Commonwealth and under the British Crown. It also allowed the Protestant majority in the northern six counties to opt to remain part of the United Kingdom. Ireland only declared itself a sovereign state in 1937 and a republic in 1949. It was only in 1999 that the Republic of Ireland gave up its claim on the north. Read the rest of this entry »

Kosovo – referendum, barricades and EU plans

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Belgrade Annual Session 2011
Belgrade Annual Session 2011 (Photo credit: oscepa)
Posted on February 13th, 2012 in the category Kosovo by TransConflict

Ahead of a referendum in the north on attitudes towards Pristina, there are growing signs that a number of actors – particularly KFOR and the EU – are beginning to grasp the realities of the north, including the need to treat the local leaders as legitimate interlocutors.

By Gerard M. Gallucci

The snows are piled deep throughout the Balkans leaving many stranded and dealing with the cold and electricity shortages. Scores have died including an entire family – minus a young survivor – in an avalanche in southern Kosovo.  Kosovo issues, however, seem not to be taking any winter leave, with a vote due this week in the north on attitudes towards Pristina, continued focus on the Kosovo Serb barricades and EU consideration of the continued role of EULEX.

The northern Kosovo Serbs says that they are ready for their “referendum” to be held February 14-15. It will reportedly ask for a “yes” or “no” response to a single question – “do you accept the institutions of the so-called Republic of Kosovo?” Much has been made of this vote – essentially a poll unlikely to produce much surprise and with no legal or operational result. Now, the UN has jumped into the fray – reportedly saying the vote is contrary to law and that UNMIK will have no role in it. The Kosovo police, however, plan no special measures and KFOR’s concerns seem more about the vote provoking violence against Kosovo Serbs south of the Ibar.

Against the general backdrop of EU and German pressures on Belgrade over Kosovo, the International Crisis Group braved the snow and cold to travel through the north to look at the barricades there. ICG found official crossing points open but unused, with travel continuing across the boundary through alternative routes. ICG’s conclusion: “Trying to use issues like freedom of movement – or the rule of law – as tools to change locals’ minds about sovereignty issues, rather than as ends in themselves, just damages the tool. The dispute isn’t a technicality and cannot be resolved as though it were.”

Meanwhile, the Pristina newspaper Zëri reports that UNMIK appears to have negotiated a “gentleman’s agreement” to allow EULEX access through the barricades. UNMIK reportedly told the paper that it was “actively engaged” in discussing “unconditional freedom of movement” in the north with “northern Serbs, as well as officials in Belgrade” alongside KFOR and EULEX efforts to do the same. No details but perhaps the “gentleman’s agreement” allows EULEX to travel on the assumption they would not be conveying Kosovo Customs to the boundary crossings? In its trip report, however, ICG reported that the northerners are still watching the roads.

There is further reporting on the EU’s plans for “reformatting” the EULEX mission later this year “taking into account the progress made by Kosovo authorities in the rule of law and the needs of changing the mission.” This would be in-line with plans announced by the Quint last month to move toward ending “supervised independence” of Kosovo. A spokesman for prime minister Thaci told Balkan Insight that “we expect that in regions like in Mitrovica and Prizren, no EULEX police officers will be stationed due to the good performance of the police…[and] the same goes for customs.” Such changes would seem to take EULEX out of its peacekeeping role in the north – where it has taken the UN’s place on crucial rule of law issues including the police, courts and customs. Read the rest of this entry »