A Postmodern Declaration Kosovo's sovereignty is a fiction: real power lies with EU officials backed by Western firepower

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There seemed
to be no immediate consequences when, in 1908, Austria annexed Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Vienna was in clear violation of the 1878 Treaty of Berlin, which
it had signed and kept Bosnia in Turkey, yet the protests of Russia
and Serbia were in vain. The following year, the fait accompli was
written into an amended treaty. Six years later, however, a Russian-backed
Serbian gunman exacted revenge by assassinating the heir to the
Austrian throne in Sarajevo in June 1914. The rest is history.

Parallels between
Kosovo in 2008 and Bosnia in 1908 are relevant, but not only because,
whatever legal trickery the west uses to override UN security council
resolution 1244 – which kept Kosovo in Serbia – the proclamation
of the new state will have incalculable long-term consequences:
on secessionist movements from Belgium to the Black Sea via Bosnia,
on relations with China and Russia, and on the international system
as a whole. They are also relevant because the last thing the new
state proclaimed in Pristina on Sunday will be is independent. Instead,
what has now emerged south of the Ibar river is a postmodern state,
an entity that may be sovereign in name but is a US-EU protectorate
in practice.

The European
Union plans to send some 2,000 officials to Kosovo to take over
from the United Nations, which has governed the province since 1999.
It wants to appoint an International Civilian Representative who – according to the plan drawn up last year by Martti Ahtisaari,
the UN envoy – will be the "final authority" in Kosovo
with the power to "correct or annul decisions by the Kosovo
public authorities". Kosovo would have had more real independence
under the terms Belgrade offered it than it will now.

Those who support
the sort of "polyvalent sovereignty" and "postnational
statehood" that we already have in the EU welcome such arrangements
as a respite from the harsh decisionism of post-Westphalian statehood.
But such fictions are in fact always underpinned by the timeless
realities of brute power. There are 16,000 Nato troops in Kosovo
and they have no intention of coming home: indeed, they are even
now being reinforced with 1,000 extra troops from Britain. They,
not the Kosovo army, are responsible for the province’s internal
and external security.

Kosovo is also
home to the vast US military base Camp Bondsteel, near Urosevac – a mini-Guantánamo that is only one in an archipelago of
new US bases in eastern Europe, the Balkans and central Asia. This
is why the Serbian prime minister, Vojislav Kostunica, speaking
on Sunday, specifically attacked Washington for the Kosovo proclamation,
saying that it showed that the US was "ready to unscrupulously
and violently jeopardise international order for the sake of its
own military interests".

In order to
symbolise its status as the newest Euro-Atlantic colony, Kosovo
has chosen a flag modelled on that of Bosnia-Herzegovina – the same
EU gold, the same arrangement of stars on a blue background. For
Bosnia, too, is governed by a foreign high representative, who has
the power to sack elected politicians and annul laws, all in the
name of preparing the country for EU integration.

As in Bosnia,
billions have been poured into Kosovo to pay for the international
administration but not to improve the lives of ordinary people.
Kosovo is a sump of poverty and corruption, both of which have exploded
since 1999, and its inhabitants have eked out their lives for nine
years now in a mafia state where there are no jobs and not even
a proper electricity supply: every few hours there are power cuts,
and the streets of Kosovo’s towns explode in a whirring din as every
shop and home switches on its generator.

This tragic
situation is made possible only because there is a fatal disconnect
in all interventionism between power and responsibility. The international
community has micro-managed every aspect of the break-up of Yugoslavia
since the EU brokered the Brioni agreement within days of the war
in Slovenia in July 1991. Yet it has always blamed the locals for
the results. Today, the new official government of Kosovo will be
controlled by its international patrons, but they will similarly
never accept accountability for its failings. They prefer instead
to govern behind the scenes, in the dangerous – and no doubt deliberate – gap between appearance and reality.

20, 2008

Laughland’s [send him
] latest book is Travesty:
The Trial of Slobodan Milosevic and the Corruption of International
(with Ramsey Clark).

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