Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Kosovo Independence, Pat Buchanan, and Roger Waters

Just as I am writing for work about a Kosovo roundtable I attended, NPR is doing a 2 part series on Kosovo independence. Here's the link. and the article is pasted at the bottom of this post.

If Kosovo becomes independent, some of the Serbian towns are thinking of seceding from Kosovo to join Serbia . Can you imagine if all the Chinatowns in the US decided to secede and join China ? or Los Angeles and San Antonio wanted to secede and join Mexico ?

As I reflected on the Belgrade trip, I contrasted what we heard there, with the xenophobia we hear in the immigration debate in the US . In both countries, the conservatives are fearful of the change in society because they see their dominance, power and personal economic and mental comfort zone slipping away. And so they talk about the "good old days." In Serbia , the good old days were 500 years ago, in the US they're 50 years ago.

Yesterday Pat Buchanan and Sean Hannity were talking about how 50 years ago everyone ate the same food, watched the same shows, wore the same clothes and everything was fine. Now people want multiculturalism and they celebrate different holidays like Cinco de Mayo! (Pat, Pat, Pat, don't get all riled up. The only reason people celebrate Cinco de Mayo is so they can get drink, like St. Patrick's Day. And Americans used to hate the Irish too.) Hannity wasn't even alive 50 years ago, but thinks it was better then.

Well, these two white guys miss the "good old days" because it was good for them (no offense to the white guys reading this. I love you white guys. I even married one.) but not so much for the rest of us.

And as a child of immigrants, I can tell you that acculturation and assimilation does happen, and it takes time, generally the process of raising the second generation. The immigrant generation know that life will be hard for themselves, especially if they don't speak English. They know that. And people want to learn English, there's a waiting list for English classes.

They do it because they know life will be better for their children, the second generation, who do become fully Americanized, complete with bad eating habits, lower educational achievement, and propensity to talk back. Or was that just me?

Given that the US has a history of absorbing new peoples and new cultures, albeit painfully, it boggles my mind that the Balkans want to just keep splitting and splitting and splitting and yet Serbia wants to join the EU, a supranational organization.

And finally, last night I went to see the Roger Waters (formerly of Pink Floyd) concert. If you know anything about him, you know that he was heavily heavily influenced by WWII and is very anti-war. In concert, he played "The Wall" while showing pictures of the Berlin Wall, the razor wires surrounding refugee camps, the US-Mexico wall, etc. And he flew out a big pink pig, from the "Animals" album cover, with slogans such as Impeach Bush Now, All Religions Divide Us, Habeas Corpus Matters, Torture is Wrong, and the Amnesty International logo. He got boos and cheers. Great, great show.


Pressure Mounts on Kosovo Independence
by Emily Harris
Morning Edition, May 22, 2007 ¡¤ This is the first piece in a two-part series.

The final chapter soon may be written in the bloody Balkan wars that ripped apart Yugoslavia in the 1990s and re-wrote the map of southern Europe .
The United Nations Security Council is discussing a proposal to set the province of Kosovo clearly on the path to independence from Serbia .
The United States strongly backs an independent Kosovo, insisting that is the only way to bring stability to the region. But Russia , also a key player in the process, adamantly insists Kosovo stay a part of Serbia .
Kosovo's Prime Minister Agim Ceku is not ruling out simply declaring independence, but only if the European Union and the United States agree to recognize and support the new country.
Western officials say they don't want the U.N. process to stall to the point Kosovo would declare independence.
Meanwhile, Kosovo Albanians have already started working on a constitution. No ethnic Serbs are involved in the process, but members of the ethnic Albanian political parties that are a part of the process say it's very informal.
American and European politicians say anything short of independence could lead to violence, as the frustrated Albanians in Kosovo are determined to be free from Belgrade .
Q&A: The State of Kosovo, May 18, 2007 ¡¤ The United Nations Security Council is discussing a proposal to set the province of Kosovo clearly on the path to independence from Serbia . Here's some background on the situation:
Where is Kosovo?
Kosovo is in southern Europe . It is a landlocked area a bit smaller than Connecticut ¡ª north of Macedonia , east of Albania , south of Serbia , and west of Bulgaria . It's at nearly the same latitude as the "ankle" of Italy .
What is Kosovo's legal status?
Kosovo is technically still a part of Serbia , which was the dominant republic in the former Yugoslavia . But since 1999, Kosovo has been run by a U.N. mission and protected by NATO troops. When Yugoslavia existed as a country, Kosovo was ¡ª for part of that time ¡ª an autonomous area within Serbia . The U.N. Security Council is currently considering a new resolution that would lead to Kosovo becoming an independent country.
What led to the current situation?
In 1999, NATO bombed Serbia in order to stop what the organization called a "campaign of terror" against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, carried out by the then Yugoslav military and irregular Serb paramilitary groups. At the end of the bombing, the Security Council approved Resolution 1244, which gave a U.N. mission the responsibility to administer Kosovo, while developing elements of a local provisional government, until a final political solution could be arranged for Kosovo.
The antagonism between Serbs and Albanians has roots that date back to the Middle Ages. These tensions have flared into violence in varying degrees since then, including in the years just prior to the 1999 bombing.
Why has it not been resolved until now?
There was no deadline to resolve Kosovo's legal status in the Security Council resolution that set up the U.N.-run government there. Several issues have come up in the past that delayed it. There were doubts that the provisional local government was ready, for various reasons, to take on the responsibility of governing ¡ª particularly in terms of ensuring the rights of Serbs in Kosovo. (A "multi-ethnic" Kosovo has been the stated aim of the United Nations and the other key group involved in Kosovo's fate ¨C the so-called "Contact Group," which is made up of the United States , United Kingdom , Germany , France , Italy and Russia .)
Now the United States and many European nations are pushing hard for the United Nations to spell out Kosovo's future by the end of June. The countries back a proposal, put together by a U.N.-appointed envoy, which would lead to Kosovo's independence. Russia is resisting this option, which is making a resolution more difficult than Western diplomats had anticipated.
What is the proposal for Kosovo that is backed by the United States ?
It's called the Ahtisaari plan. The plan is named after the U.N. special envoy Martti Ahtisaari, a former president of Finland , who attempted for more than a year to negotiate a settlement between the Serbian government and the Kosovo provisional government. The two sides have opposite end goals: Kosovo refuses to be in any way a part of Serbia again, and Serbia refuses to accept Kosovo as an independent country. Ahtisaari put together his own recommendations, which have become the basis for the proposal in front of the Security Council now.
The Ahtisaari plan sets up local authorities in Kosovo to take on significantly more power and responsibility than they have under the U.N. mission. European Union oversight would replace that of the United Nations and would be less sweeping. Ahtisaari's proposal would allow Kosovo its own security force, flag and the right to apply for membership in international organizations. It doesn't use the word "independence" in referring to Kosovo's future, but does builds in a review of the situation. It is, however, expected that "supervised" independence would be followed fairly rapidly by full independence for Kosovo.
What parts of the proposal does Russia object to and why?
Russia's major public objection is that the United Nations doesn't have the right to carve up sovereign states and warns this will set a bad precedent. Moscow refers frequently to U.N .Security Council resolution 1244, which mentions the U.N. "commitment" to the "sovereignty and territorial integrity" of Yugoslavia . In addition, Moscow backs Serbia in saying that Serbs in Kosovo have not, and cannot be, adequately protected, and says further talks should be held between Serbia and Kosovo.
The United States and the Kosovo government reject the idea of more talks, and the U.N. envoy says the possibilities for discussion are exhausted. The United States also argues Kosovo is a unique case and should not be seen as setting a precedent for other independent minded or "breakaway" regions around the world. The situation in Kosovo is being watched closely by people elsewhere around the world who have been seeking their own states, including the Kurds in northern Iraq and the Basques in Spain . A number of such conflicts directly involve Russia , including in Chechnya , Transdniestr, South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Why is this important to the United States ?
The United States got involved militarily against the Serbs in Kosovo in 1999 after sitting out similarly horrible wars in Bosnia and Croatia . The U.S.-led NATO bombardment set the stage for U.N. governance of Kosovo ¡ª and for the current question of its future status. In the U.S. view, the only possible path to stability in the Balkans region is for Kosovo to become independent
What are the chances of more violence in this area?
It is unclear. U.S. officials are openly warning of an increased potential for violence if Kosovo's status is not resolved soon. Ethnic Albanians are impatient for independence and, if it is delayed, it's possible that fringe elements, perhaps former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army, could take out their frustrations either on the U.N. government there ¡ª there have been some attacks on U.N. cars recently ¡ª or perhaps on Serbs. Some Albanian politicians in Kosovo disagree, arguing that more violence would only hurt Kosovo's efforts at winning independence, so violence would only be orchestrated by people or groups which would prefer Kosovo not become independent. Serbs, meanwhile, say they fear "show-who's-boss" attacks if Kosovo is set on a path toward independence, or being targeted if the independence plan is delayed.

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