Dear friends, in October the European Council refused to open accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia. Here is an attempt to illustrate what happened, what France would like to happen now and what should happen.
NOVA TV, “Кнаус за НОВА: Европска економска зона е подобро од овa статус кво” – interview with Gerald Knaus – (“Knaus in conversation with NOVA: The European Economic Area is better than the status quo”) (26 October 2019)
Radical realism – to transform the world, lets take its measure first. Why joining the European single market and the four freedoms would be a huge step forward for all Western Balkan nations.
And why the EU should offer this to all six, with a reformed accession methodology that truly rewards merit. This will be very hard work. But with this EU integration would finally get serious for the region.
Q: Will the ESI Norway in the Balkans proposal mark the end of enlargement ?
Knaus: It is the opposite: with this proposal the European integration of the Balkan countries would accelerate. We are proposing that the European Union opens accession talks with all six Western Balkan countries now to join the European single market, the biggest in the world, with its four freedoms of movement of people, capital, goods and services. And we propose to reform the way these talks take place, to make them fair and transformative.
The immediate goal is for each Balkan country that meets the conditions to be linked as closely to the EU as Norway is in the so-called European Economic Area (EEA). Now, joining the EEA is in itself a very good thing. Norway, a rich country, is still paying the EU a lot to be in the EEA, because it is such an advantage for its people and economy, Of course, the Western Balkans are not rich and need help to catch up, so the EU should increase grants and assistance AND allow them to join the single market in order. Why? Because a stable, democratic, prosperous Balkans is in the EU interest.
Now, North Macedonia citizens might say that they want to join the EU, nothing else. But even then our proposal is good for them. How does EEA accession relate to the goal of EU accession? If you think of joining the EU as a marathon, over 42 km, joining the EEA is running the first 35 km of that very same marathon, on exactly the same road. It is not a detour, it is not an alternative, is is a stage on the same path.
This is not just my theory. This is how it worked in the past. I was young then, but remember well: this is how Austrian, Finland and Sweden joined the European Union more than twenty years ago. All three joined the EEA first. Then, since everything they needed to do for the EEA was also a requirement for the EU, they completed EU accession talks within a very short period of time. To be precise: the EEA entered into force in 1994 and Austria, Sweden and Finland joined the EU on 1 January 1995. This is important: there is no contradiction between the goal of first joining the EEA and then the EU. On the contrary, it is a logical sequence. All EEA negotiators at the time noted how these talks made later fast accession of their countries possible.
Q: what about the commitment of the EU from Zagreb 2000 and Thessaloniki 2003 ? Could we just forgot it?
These commitments remain, of course. At the same time we know that these promises, repeated every year over twenty years, never guaranteed WHEN enlargement would actually happen. Nobody can guarantee this. Every EU member states always kept the right to veto. And they used it. How many times was North Macedonia blocked by a veto of one member state, despite unconditional recommendations by the European Commission to start talks? Nine times! Nobody knows from bitter experience better than Macedonians that the most important thing is a process which is about merit and not arbitrary vetoes, at every step.
So my advice to Balkan leaders is to focus all diplomatic energy on changing the process, not demanding guarantees that can never be given. We do not know now who the French president will be in 2024. Right now there is a lot of sympathy with North Macedonia and Albania in many EU states. This sympathy should help push for a reformed process. If the process is not reformed, what would happen even when you have to open the first chapters? Again, you know: Croatia experienced it, Turkey did.
How likely is it to reform the process in this way? It is hard, too. But if ever there was a moment to do it it is now. There is a new Commission. There is a deep crisis. So this is the moment to put a constructive proposal on the table that can convince all EU members and work for the Balkans for the next years, not just the next months. The key question is not whether talks today will lead to a Norwegian situation of joining the EEA or to a Swedish situation of joining, first the EEA and then the EU. This will be decided later in any case. What is key now is that these talks are fair.
Q: How to explain to Montenegro and Serbia that the game is over?
Knaus: The current accession process has been broken for years. Many Member states don’t believe in it. Frontrunners, like Turkey and Serbia, don’t believe in it any more. What happened to North Macedonia in Brussels confirmed this.Note: Turkey has been negotiating its accession since 2005, Montenegro since 2012, Serbia since 2014. But did opening accession talks process produce the positive changes which were expected? No. Are these countries closer to joining the EU now than they were when they started? No. Turkey has since had a coup attempt. a state of emergency, fighting broke out again in South East Anatolia. And last year in Sofia EU member states refused to give even a vague commitment that 2025 was a good target date for Serbia and Montenegro to join. Nobody has any guarantee, whether talks started or not.
So the process itself must be changed. I feared in a speech in 2014 in Belgrade at an event with the deputy prime minister of Serbia that the current accession process would not survive for more than five years without reform. This was five years ago.
Q: Negotiations for membership was a very efficient instrument for the transformation and reform . what could be the carrot now?
Knaus: Negotiations for membership are only an efficient instrument for transformation when EU is serious about it. The EU has not been serious about the negotiations with the Western Balkan countries. It is not prepared to open them with four out of six. Why? Because accession of the Western Balkan countries is unpopular in many EU members. So a process was designed with so many obstacles that it kills the motivation of even the most committed politicians or civil servant. You can have a hurdles race over over 200 meters. You cannot have a hurdles race over 42 kilometers. This is what the current process has become. This is what your government has experienced too. That is bad for the EU and bad for the Balkans.
The question of incentives is crucial. The first incentive, the major carrot, is that the process helps reformers create a better country for their citizens and children. For this, it must be fair. For citizens it must be transparent. The EU should provide real help reaching Eu standards, not block countries. And each Balkan country should be judged by the same criteria. If more assistance then goes to those counties that perform best, all the better. But you cannot buy the will to reform with money. Yes, money helps. Having a goal that is within reach of a few years helps too. Having EU member states that want you to reach it, not block you, is also crucial.
Q: How would the process of negotiation look like ?
Knaus: There is a website where you can see what the EAA covers. It is a huge part of the EU rules and laws. Reaching this integration now should be the first objective goal for each of the six WB countries. The EU should draw up roadmaps for each area. and then evaluate regularly how far each of the six Balkan countries are from meeting these criteria in each field. These assessments should be led by experts, the criteria public, allowing you to compare countries. There should be a positive competition. And no vetoes once the whole process starts next year until the very end.
Q: What is the potential risk for stability if there is no more enlargement ?
Knaus: Many in the EU fear that Balkan countries are not stable and might return to chaos at any moment. This is a very bad image to have. I would never use fear of instability as an argument for enlargement. On the other hand, the goal of eternal European peace is a great and inspiring goal for the EU and the Balkans. I lived in the Balkans in the 1990s, in Sarajevo, in Pristina, and remember well a period when nationalists first won elections with promises of hate, and then wars and destruction followed. This must never happen again in the Balkans. But it continues to happen, even in Europe, even today. In 2008 there was a war in Georgia. In 2014 in Ukraine. This is why we need European integration, not just in the Balkans, but also in the Balkans.
Q: ESI has put lot of effort in order to promote enlargement of EU towards WB. How you are going to ensure your partners in the WB that it was just a “joke” talking about enlargement?
Knaus: We put a lot of effort into convincing EU interior ministers into lifting the visa requirements for all Western Balkan countries first. And it succeeded. Why? Because it was a merit based credible process. And because we talked to the sceptics, and tried to persuade the ministers of interior in EU member states. This is the only way this can work, and it means that right now we need to talk to France and the Netherlands, to see how to convince them. And to show them that a credible process of accession can be in their interest, too.
Q: Why don’t you join the huge majority of member states and WB countries to find a solution in order to change Macron s mind?
Knaus: I simply ask: do you think it is likely that other member states will be able to change the mind of the French president? It might happen. I hope it does. But it never happened with Greece. So you need a strategy that also works without it happening. And that makes future vetoes in the process less likely. This is how European integration has always happened. It is not new.
Q: Do you believe that there is anything that could satisfy Macron in order to leave his veto on enlargement ?
Knaus: He says the EU is not now ready to promise enlargement to anyone. But the EU should be ready to allow each Western Balkan state to meet the conditions to join the EEA. I think to persuade France of this is possible, if other EU members support it too.
Q: Is there any other member state supporting your ideas ? If yes..which one?
Knaus: We only published this paper last Friday night. But there has been a strong and encouraging response. I received emails and SMS from foreign ministers, parliamentarians and EU officials within hours, expressing interest. But I have no illusions. This would be a historic offer, that would transform the Balkans. But it will take a lot of discussions. Like visa liberalisation. And it will only work if leaders in the region support it too. Not as their ideal scenario, but as a very good way forward for their countries, much better than the status quo.
One of our many newsletters on the Council of Europe
On the 70th anniversary of an institution worth saving
As the Council of Europe reaches the robust age of 70 today some might ask whether there is all that much to celebrate.
After all, at this moment the Council of Europe is in the middle of a serious crisis. Looking only at the past few years this is the trend: it is failing in Russia. It is failing in Azerbaijan. It is failing in Turkey. It has made far too weak an impact on arresting the erosion of the rule of law in Hungary and Poland. It is facing serious internal and external threats to its credibility. It has yet to deal seriously with the biggest corruption scandal in its history.
The Council of Europe is in a worrying shape despite the fact that there are very committed people in PACE, where the past two years have seen an uprising of a virtuous coalition of members; despite the fact that there are very committed people in the secretariat; and despite the fact that there are (far too few) countries taking the CoE as seriously in the Committee of Ministers as it deserves.
At the same time, the current leadership in the secretariat in Strasbourg has failed the institution far too long. Mostly, the Committee of Ministers is weak and indecisive. And even in PACE old networks that want to get back to the bad old days of Pedro Agramunt have not given up. (Just check how few MPs are complying with declarations on possible conflicts of interest.)
In the coming months the credibility crisis of the institution could get a lot worse. There are budget cuts planned that could do lasting damage. These are imposed because of blackmail by a big member mocking the values of the institution. The Council of Europe is facing threats today that could destroy it as a force for good.
This would be tragic. For there is a lot that is worth defending – from the ECtHR and the Venice Commission to Greco, the CPT and the Human Rights Commissioner’s office. There is also a lot to be inspired by in the idea of a club of imperfect European democracies holding each other to the highest standards – and focusing on core human rights. There is a real need for such an institution today, as human rights are coming under attack across Europe, in old and new democracies.
ESI has written many reports, newsletters and papers about the Council of Europe in recent years. We advocated on a number of issues – from political prisoners to corruption, from resisting blackmail to protecting the court. Sometimes we even saw results after long efforts. At times it seemed quixotic – there were not that many other think tanks in Europe working on the institution itself with such obsessive focus.
We would not have done this, had we not been convinced that the Council of Europe matters hugely. That it is truly an institution representing values and embodying ideals worth fighting for. And yet, there is one more thing we have also learned since 2012: never assume that anything will sort itself out without effort and vigilance. And any impact requires a huge coalition of people who care enough to take risks – in and outside the institution. Here civil society organisations have an important role of play.
So this is our anniversary present: links to newsletters we sent out on the Council of Europe since 2012, joined by our hope that the reports which we will write about developments in Strasbourg in the coming decade will be more uplifting.
And with this hope, we wish a very happy anniversary!
The ESI team
Links to ESI newsletters on the Council of Europe
On Caviar Diplomacy
Pace and political prisoners
Ilham the Magician
Viktor Hugo and the dream of the Council of Europe
The Strasbourg court and Bosnia
The end of election monitoring and PACE
Hunger strikers abandoned by PACE
Political prisoners and Jaglands mission
For a Europe without political prisoners
Targeting human rights defenders
The legacy of Sakharov
Origins of modern human rights in Russia
Letters from prison
Formula one, Vaclav and Rasul
Dorian Gray in Strasbourg – the end of shame
A European swamp – the biggest scandal
Fifa of human rights – anti-corruption in Strasbourg
Three days that shook the Council of Europe
How to investigate corruption?
The hour of truth
The fight against the death penalty in Turkey
Phoenix and the black knight
From Russia with threats
The lobbyist, the judge and the court
Spring cleaning – the corruption report
On rule of law in Poland and the Venice Commission
Human rights with teeth
More to come … 🙂
Gallery of ESI engagement with the Council of Europe (2012 – 2019)
A SECOND BREXIT REFERENDUM – AND THE SEARCH FOR COMMON GROUND
A constructive proposal
By: John Dalhuisen, ESI Senior Fellow
Advocates for a second referendum on Brexit have struggled to articulate what such a referendum should look like. There are very divergent views on the question that should be asked – or the options that should be included. There is also little agreement on the voting system that should be used.
A second referendum can only be held if the public is convinced that the outcome would be conclusive, unambiguous and fair. The options presented and the voting system used would have to be simple enough to be easily understood. The voting system would also need to take the result of the first referendum into account by placing restrictions on the circumstances in which the leave result could be overturned.
In the absence of a proposal that satisfies these criteria, a second referendum might be a good idea whose time will never come. It needs to become a credible political proposition. As this paper shows, a referendum that satisfies demanding criteria and points the way towards a new consensus in a highly polarised UK debate is both possible and promising, presenting the best way forward. With a concrete and fair proposal on the table it becomes more likely to obtain the essential bipartisan public support for holding one.
A further referendum should be a three-way referendum between Deal – No deal – and Remain, in order to:
It should use a “Preferential Vote + Qualified Lock” voting system, in order to
Both sequential voting options are problematic as they almost certainly preclude a No Deal victory. This is likely to generate considerable resentment amongst those who want it. No referendum should exclude the possibility of victory of an option on the ballot that could conceivably win under another reasonable voting system. A standard preferential voting system is also unsatisfactory as it would encourage tactical voting on the part of No Deal voters and would allow Remain to win even if there were leave options that a majority preferred to it counting across all preferences. This would not provide an adequate mandate to overturn the result of the June 2016 referendum. In short, a sequential or standard alternative vote referendum would not be unambiguous or fair: the outcomes would be disputed.
This leaves the two kinds of preferential voting system with a leave-favouring “lock”. There are compelling arguments for both. They pit two criteria against each other: the fairness / accuracy of the outcome, on the one hand, and the need to take the result of the 2016 referendum into account, on the other.
An “absolute lock” pays the greatest respect to the original referendum, as it would require an absolute majority of first choices for Remain for the result of the original referendum to be overturned. However, it could also result in a situation in which the UK leaves the EU with a deal, despite a majority of voters preferring to remain in the EU to both leave options counting across all preferences.
A “qualified lock” would satisfy the requirement that Remain should not be able to win in the event of an overall majority preferring one or other leave option to Remain counting across all preferences. But it would allow for a “minority” Remain victory if it beat both leave options after taking all voters’ complete preferences into account.
Under a qualified lock, Remain is already handicapped relative to both leave options. It faces an additional hurdle that the other two options do not. This is justified – indeed necessary – on account of the result of the 2016 referendum. However, the additional requirement of an outright majority of first preferences for Remain to overturn to the original result could result in an outcome that was clearly inconsistent with actual voter preferences and would be irreconcilable with the criterion of fairness.
In short, a new referendum on Brexit should be a single-round, preferential (alternative) vote on three options: Deal, No Deal or Remain, with a built-in “lock”. The lock would prevent Remain from winning unless it was preferred by a majority of voters to both leave options taking all voter’s complete list of preferences into account.
How might a second referendum on Brexit work?
As the choice of voting system and question heavily influences outcomes (i.e. the same set of voter preferences will yield a different result depending on which questions are asked and how votes are counted), it is difficult to come to a view on what a new referendum on Brexit should look like that is not influenced by one’s own preferences. This paper attempts to do this, however, by setting the following criteria:
A new referendum must be:
It should also acknowledge the result of the June 2016 referendum.
The voting system should exclude the possibility of victory for Remain if there is a conclusive leave alternative that is preferred to it by a majority of voters, counting across all preferences. Such an outcome would be legitimately contested, given that a majority of the voting public has already voted once to leave the EU.
These criteria aim to ensure that the result of any new referendum on Brexit is as undisputed as possible. Given the importance of the issue for the future of the country and the depth of feeling it provokes, it is crucial that any new referendum delivers a conclusive outcome that cannot reasonably and legitimately be challenged. The best referendum is one which the most people can agree to in advance and the least people can dispute once it has taken place. No new referendum can exclude the possibility that those who do not get their preferred outcome feel robbed. But it is crucial – and possible – that they cannot feel robbed by the format chosen.
Which options should be on the ballot?
The proposal in this paper is based on the deal negotiated by the government with the EU being one of the options. However, the considerations and conclusions that follow would apply equally to ANY deal. For now at least, whether Parliament likes it not, the current deal is the one on the table. But what should the other option or options be?
A binary referendum?
It would be possible to ask the public to choose simply between the deal the government has negotiated and a no deal departure from the EU. This has a certain logic: the question of whether or not to leave has been asked already. On the other hand, given the clarity that now exists on the alternatives on offer, and the possibility that a majority now favours remain, it would not be fair, and far from democratic, to leave this option off the ballot altogether. If you are going to ask people their opinion on Brexit again, you cannot confine this to how it should happen, when a good many may well have changed their minds on the desirability of the entire enterprise.
It would also be possible to run a straight deal-remain referendum. But this would also exclude a popular, possible option: no deal. It would face the same practical and principled short-comings in terms of the legitimacy of the outcome.
A new two-way referendum would not satisfy the criteria of fairness and unambiguousness set out above. So a new referendum should at offer at least three choices: deal – no deal – remain, in order to maintain democratic legitimacy.
A multiple-choice referendum?
Should any other options should be on the ballot? After all, Parliament has considered a range of alternatives in the course of the “indicative votes process”.
One could argue for the inclusion of soft Brexit options that the EU would likely agree to: remaining in either or both of the customs union or the single market. It is likely that there are voters who would prefer one or both of these options to all of the other three. This speaks for their inclusion.
However, a four-/five-/ or even six-way referendum would be excessively complicated. An outcome requiring entirely new negotiations would also fail the test of conclusiveness.
A new referendum should therefore offer a three-way choice between remaining in the EU, leaving with the government’s deal and leaving with no deal at all. These are all realistic, understandable, conclusive options that the UK can decide to pursue unilaterally.
Please continue to read the full paper and proposal here: ESI John Dalhuisen – Brexit discussion paper 19 April 2019
Heading to Essen for a debate today on confidence, values and European asylum and migration policy. For more information on the Mercator Salon see below.
In preparation I am updating my research on the invasion of Europe in 2018. I am coming across some shocking numbers, which must be shared.
Greece: August 2018 some 3,673 million people arrived. That is ~120,000 every day.
Spain: August 2018 saw 10.2 million people arrive. That is ~329,000 every day.
France: the Paris region alone saw 171 million people stay in hotels in the first half of 2018. That is ~945,000 every day.
Clearly the mainstream media are not doing enough to highlight these numbers. And have YOU seen the statistics showing how many crimes these hundreds of millions of people are responsible for? I have not either. It must be a conspiracy.
PS: Meanwhile, the total number of people who arrived irregularly per boat across the Mediterranean in the first nine months of 2018 – to Spain, Italy and Greece – was 81,000. This is 9,000 a month or 297 every day.
“Die Frage nach dem richtigen Umgang mit Einwanderung spaltet Europa. Viele Menschen sind nach dem sprunghaften Anstieg ein- und durchreisender Flüchtlinge und Migranten im Jahr 2015 verunsichert. Populistische Parteien werfen der Politik Versagen vor und geben vermeintlich einfache Antworten.
Wir möchten mit zwei Gestaltern von Migrationspolitik sprechen, die dennoch sagen: Wir schaffen das! Serap Güler und Gerald Knaus setzen sich auf unterschiedlichen Ebenen für eine Politik ein, die Einwanderung regelt, ohne Asylsuchende schlecht zu behandeln; die Migration und Asyl als Aufgaben begreift, die wir gemeinsam auf regionaler, nationaler und europäischer Ebene angehen müssen.
Warum setzen sie sich für eine humane und europäische Flüchtlingspolitik ein? Welche Praxisbeispiele geben ihnen Zuversicht, dass Politik und Gesellschaft die mit Migration verbundenen Herausforderungen meistern können? Wie versuchen sie, Menschen Ängste zu nehmen und Vertrauen in die Politik zurückzugewinnen?
Diese und weitere Frage möchten wir im Rahmen eines Mercator Salons gemeinsam mit Serap Güler, Staatssekretärin für Integration im Ministerium für Kinder, Familie, Flüchtlinge und Integration des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen, und Gerald Knaus, Gründungsdirektor der Europäischen Stabilitätsinitiative (ESI) und einer der wichtigsten Impulsgeber für eine europäische Migrationspolitik, diskutieren. Moderiert wird die Veranstaltung von Michael Martens, Korrespondent der Frankfurter Allgemeinen Zeitung in Athen.”
Some sources on the invasion of 2018:
Last week I explored a few Schengen borders in Central Europe, cycling around Lake Constance: the border between Austria and Germany near Bregenz and Lindau. The border between Germany and Switzerland near Konstanz (Constance). And the invisible borders criss-crossing Germany’s largest lake.
This is what these borders look like in August 2018:
Border crossing from Germany to Austria: that’s it.
This bit of water marks the border between Austria and Germany. Seen from Austrian side.
This is the border between Germany and Switzerland. The towns on both sides have grown together. The train-station of Constance is used by both countries.
I will write more here about the reality of Schengen borders in Europe in 2018 soon.
I also gave a long interview, while in Constance, to the leading regional daily Südkurier; discussing what the reality of Schengen means for proposals to unilaterally close national borders (between Germany and Austria, say, or all around Germany): it is simply not possible without a dramatic intervention disrupting daily lives of millions massively. This, and more – Salvini’s theatrics, rescues at sea, hysteria and migration, what real crises are today, surprising facts such as “more people received international protection last year in Belgium than in Italy” I discuss in the interview below (in German, so you have to use google translate).
Herr Knaus, Sie fahren zur Zeit mit dem Rad um den Bodensee. Verbinden Sie da Privates mit Beruflichem?
Es ist Urlaub in einer Region, in der einem viele Ideen kommen. Ansonsten arbeite ich im August im Bergdorf meines Großvaters im Bregenzerwald, am anderen Ende des Sees, schreibe Papiere und bereite eine Reise zum spanischen Außenminister vor. Hier am Bodensee schauen wir auch Grenzen an, bei Lindau etwa, und jetzt in Konstanz die Grenze zur Schweiz. Wir stellen uns dann vor, wie diese aussehen müsste, würde man hier versuchen irreguläre Migration nach Deutschland zu stoppen, so wie die CSU das im Juni vorgeschlagen hat.
Sie sind der Vordenker des EU-Abkommens mit der Türkei. Jetzt gibt es neue Flüchtlingsrouten übers Mittelmeer. Hat sich das Problem nur verlagert?
So wie der italienische Innenminister Matteo Salvini derzeit auftritt, würde man glauben, Italien wäre 2018 das Land, in dem die meisten Flüchtlingen in der EU ankommen. In Wirklichkeit hat Spanien dieses Jahr mehr Bootsflüchtlinge aufgenommen als Italien. Selbst in das kleinere Griechenland kommen aus der Türkei noch mehr Menschen. Für Asylantragsteller, die nach Deutschland kommen, sind immer noch die griechisch-türkische Grenze und der Balkan die wichtigsten Routen. Die öffentliche Diskussion nimmt das jedoch kaum wahr.
Woran liegt das?
Die Debatte wird von Hysterie beherrscht, und Populisten geht es nicht um Zahlen oder konkrete Lösungen. Selbst wenn irgendwann niemand mehr nach Italien oder Ungarn käme, um Asyl zu beantragen, würde Salvini Migration zum Hauptthema machen. In den ersten fünf Monaten dieses Jahres kamen im Durchschnitt weniger als 2700 Menschen im Monat über das Meer nach Italien. Dann wurde Matteo Salvini (Lega Nord) Anfang Juni Minister und versprach durch Sabotage privater Seenotretter eine angebliche Invasion zu stoppen. Das Ergebnis: Auch im Juni kamen wieder mehr als 3100 Menschen, dafür sind aber 564 Menschen ertrunken. Das sind mehr als fünf Mal so viele als im Durchschnitt im ganzen letzten Jahr im Monat ertrunken sind. Doch so wie Trump oder Orban ist auch Salvini gut darin, packende Geschichten zu erzählen, die mit der Wirklichkeit nichts zu tun haben. Und künstliche Krisen zu schaffen.
Eine künstliche Krise? Wir sehen wieder fast täglich Bilder vom Mittelmeer…
Es gibt genug echte Krisen, die man dringend lösen muss. Es sollte niemand mehr im Mittelmeer ertrinken. Es sollten sich viel weniger Menschen auf den Weg nach Libyen machen, um von dort in die EU zu kommen. Niemand, der mit einem Boot ankommt, sollte länger als sechs Wochen auf eine endgültige Asylentscheidung warten. An all diesen Krisen zu arbeiten und umsetzbare Lösungen vorzuschlagen, wäre verantwortungsvolle Politik. Aber zu behaupten, Italien müsste wegen 2700 Menschen im Monat die Flüchtlingskonvention, die Antifolterkonvention und die Europäische Menschenrechtskonvention aussetzen, weil Europa sonst von Migranten überflutet würde, hat mit seriöser Politik nichts zu tun.
Aber war diese Eskalation nicht vorhersehbar? Auch vor der jetzigen populistischen Regierung in Rom appellierte Italien immer wieder an die Solidarität der übrigen Mitgliedstaaten…
Blicken wir genauer hin. Asylanträge? In den ersten fünf Monaten dieses Jahres gab es in Deutschland 66 000, in Frankreich 46 000, in Italien nur 28 000. Positive Asylentscheidungen? Im Jahr 2017 bekamen in Deutschland 222 000 Menschen internationalen Schutz, in Italien waren es gerade 12 000. Weniger als in Belgien, viel weniger als in Frankreich. Italien ist durch seine Geografie betroffen, in den letzten Jahren sind über 600 000 Menschen dort angekommen, die Küstenwache hat sehr viele gerettet, danach sind aber viele weitergezogen. Und endgültige Asylentscheide dauern Jahre. So wurde die EU zum tödlichen Magnet. Die Vorgängerregierung in Rom hat dann auf die libysche Küstenwache gesetzt. Salvini hat applaudiert und gleichzeitig behauptet, dass das nicht genügt und der Rest der EU Italien weiterhin im Stich lassen würde. Und er macht das sehr geschickt.
Das Problem liegt doch vor allem in der Dublin-Verordnung…
Tatsächlich denken viele, in Italien wie in Deutschland, die Dublin-Verordnung hätte das Problem von Asylsuchenden auf Kosten der Mittelmeerstaaten gelöst: Hätte man Italien früher unter die Arme gegriffen, etwa mit einem System der Umverteilung von Asylsuchenden, dann wäre die Situation nicht so eskaliert. Doch hätte es vor 2014 ein System mit Quoten und Verteilung gegeben, wären Asylsuchende aus dem Rest Europas nach Italien zurückgebracht worden, so wenige Anträge gab es dort. In Wirklichkeit hat Dublin einfach nie funktioniert, Menschen sind immer weitergezogen und Länder haben sie selten zurückgenommen.
Trotzdem zetern Europas Populisten gegen die EU…
Dublin ist vor allem deshalb ein Problem, weil es eine Fiktion schafft, an der sich alle Populisten abarbeiten können, die aber noch nie umgesetzt wurde. Man muss klar vermitteln, wie eine humane Alternative zur Politik von Salvini tatsächlich aussehen könnte. Aus Brüssel kamen seit 2015 zwei große Ideen, beide waren weltfremd. Erstens: die Zwangsverteilung von Asylsuchenden. Das hat von 2015 bis 2017 nicht funktioniert und würde auch heute kaum ein Problem lösen. Das weiß die Europäische Kommission auch. Zweitens: mehr Geld für Frontex und EU Grenzbeamte. Doch weder in Spanien noch in Italien oder Griechenland fehlt es heute an nationalen Grenzbeamten. Wenn man dann noch dazu nimmt, dass Dublin nie funktionierte, wirkt die EU verloren. Und dann kommen Populisten wie Salvini und Viktor Orbán, behaupten es sei alles ganz einfach, das Versagen Europas nur eine Frage des Willens. Das ist Theater, aber leider mit guten Schauspielern.
Wie sieht eine europäische Lösung denn aus?
Wir müssen wissen, was im Regelfall passiert, wenn heute ein europäisches Schiff im Mittelmeer Menschen rettet. Es ist illegal, Menschen nach Libyen zurückzubringen. Kein anderes nordafrikanisches Land ist zur Aufnahme bereit. Daher brauchen wir gemeinsame europäische Aufnahmezentren, in denen schnell entschieden werden kann, wer Schutz braucht und wer nicht. Und das binnen Wochen, wie heute in den Niederlanden schon, wo die Fristen zwischen Ablehnung und Berufungsentscheidung verkürzt sind. Dazu braucht es Anreize für Herkunftsländer, dass ihre Bürger zurückgenommen werden, die keinen Schutz brauchen. Geschieht dies konsequent und schnell, ist das der beste Weg, viele davon abzuhalten, die gefährliche Reise anzutreten. Und niemand wird Folterern ausgeliefert oder in die Gefahr zurückgestoßen.
Angenommen, die Zentren funktionieren, wie Sie sagen. Wie geht es dann weiter?
Wer Asyl bekommt, dürfte in der EU bleiben. Es wäre im Interesse von Deutschland, Frankreich, der Niederlande anerkannte Flüchtlinge freiwillig aufzunehmen – als Teil eines Gesamtsystems, das irreguläre Migration reduziert und Schengen stärkt. Die meisten, die in den vergangenen Jahren in Italien ankamen, bekommen in der EU keinen internationalen Schutz. Ein EU-Fonds sollte dafür Gemeinden und Städte subventionieren, wenn sie anerkannte Flüchtlinge aus diesen Zentren aufnehmen.
Das Problem solcher Zentren ist oft, dass die Menschen nicht bleiben, um auf die Entscheidung zu warten. Wie würden Sie das lösen?
Wenn Bedingungen menschenwürdig sind, und die Verfahren schnell, dann müsste man sicherstellen können, dass Leute nicht einfach weiterreisen. Auch Menschenrechtsorganisationen sollten das – unter Einschränkungen – unterstützen, wenn es dazu führt, das niemand ewig in der Luft hängt und niemand ohne faires Verfahren zurückgeschickt wird. Man sollte ein Zeitlimit setzen. Was in jedem Fall zu Problemen führt, wäre Menschen länger oder zur Abschreckung festzuhalten. Doch ich habe keine Illusionen: Wenn sich politisch Salvini, Orbán und andere in der EU durchsetzen, wird es wie in den USA kommen, wo es heute schon über 40 000 Haftplätze für irreguläre Migranten gibt.
Rückführungen funktionieren auch in Deutschland nicht. Jahre später werden längst integrierte Flüchtlinge abgeschoben. Wie sinnvoll ist das?
Es schadet dem Einzelnen, aber es nützt der Allgemeinheit nicht. Es ist sinnlos. Leider läuft die Debatte oft so, als gebe es nur zwei Möglichkeiten: eine Amnestie für alle, was dazu führen könnte, dass noch mehr Menschen nach Deutschland kommen. Oder eine rigorose Abschiebepolitik – koste es was es wolle, obwohl jedem klar ist, dass das oft sinnlos ist, und dass trotzdem viele, die heute hier sind, am Ende nicht abgeschoben werden können.
Gibt es denn eine Alternative?
Ja. Das erste Ziel sollte sein, dass diejenigen, die irregulär kommen und keinen Schutz brauchen, möglichst schnell zurückgeschickt werden, aus Aufnahmezentren an den EU-Außengrenzen und durch attraktive Abkommen mit Herkunftsländern. Das zweite Ziel sollte sein, dass nach einem Stichtag jene, die schon hier sind, eine Chance bekommen hier bleiben zu können, wenn sie konkrete Anstrengungen unternehmen sich ein neues Leben aufzubauen. Beides zusammen sollte erreichen, dass es in drei Jahren eines nicht mehr gibt: viele Menschen ohne Perspektive, die am Rande der Gesellschaft, ohne klaren Status leben. Doch so eine Politik kann die EU nicht umsetzen. Das müssen Koalitionen von Mitgliedsländern machen.
Bundesinnenminister Horst Seehofer setzt vielleicht auch deshalb eher auf nationale Lösungen…
Die Frage ist: welche Lösung? Dublin an der deutschen Außengrenze wiederzubeleben, ist wie einen Toten künstlich zu beatmen. Es wäre hingegen sehr gut für Europa, wenn der deutsche Innenminister tatsächlich Erfolg hätte, gefährlichen Populisten das Wasser abzugraben. Etwa so: eine deutsch-französische Initiative für ein europäisches Ankerzentrum auf Lesbos, in Spanien oder auf Korsika, in dem seriös schnell entschieden wird, wer Schutz braucht. Eine Troika Spanien-Frankreich-Deutschland, die Herkunftsländern attraktive Angebote zur Rücknahme ihrer Bürger nach einem Stichtag macht. Das Ausdehnen des EU-Türkei Abkommens auf die Landgrenze mit der EU. Mehr Umsiedlungen von Schutzbedürftigen mit dem Flüchtlingshilfswerk UNHCR. Schnellere Familienzusammenführungen, schneller Abschiebungen von Gefährdern. Das strategische Ziel 2019: Weniger Menschen kommen über das Mittelmeer, niemand ertrinkt und proeuropäische Parteien weisen mit einer selbstbewussten und humanen Asylpolitik Salvini und Co. bei Wahlen in die Schranken. Wenn es Horst Seehofer gelänge, Kontrolle, Sicherheit und Respekt für Menschenwürde zu verbinden, wäre ganz Europa der Gewinner.
Seehofer versucht sich lieber in bilateralen Abkommen mit Wien.
Mitte Juni hat Horst Seehofer zunächst von Kanzler Sebastian Kurz und FPÖ-Vizekanzler Heinz-Christian Strache verbale Unterstützung erfahren. Dann aber, als es konkret darum ging, dass Österreich Asylsuchende aus Deutschland zurücknehmen sollte, hat sich deren Haltung um 180 Grad gedreht. Das war eine gute Lehre. Denn obwohl im Juni 2018 nur relativ wenige Flüchtlinge an die deutsch-österreichischen Grenze kamen, zeigte sich, dass es die angeblich einfache Option, national Grenzen dichtzumachen, praktisch nie gegeben hat.
Was passiert, wenn es der EU nicht gelingt, eine nachhaltige Lösung für die Flüchtlingskrise zu finden?
Das, was Salvini, Orbán, Marine Le Pen und andere offen anstreben, ist ein Europa, in dem die Flüchtlings- und Menschenrechtskonventionen nicht mehr gelten. Angst vor offenen Grenzen führt bei ihnen zur Attacke auf das, was im vergangenen halben Jahrhundert aufgebaut wurde. Was sie verbindet, ist das Schüren von Angst und Hass: auf Flüchtlinge und Migranten, als Invasionsarmee bezeichnet, also als Feinde. Auf Eliten und die Zivilgesellschaft, die als Verräter in diesem angeblichen Krieg auf der falschen Seite stehen. Das ist eine gefährliche Agenda. Jene in der EU, die das nicht wollen, müssen beweisen, dass es einen besseren Weg gibt, mit Migration und Asyl so umzugehen, dass sich Mehrheiten trotzdem sicher fühlen. Ohne unsere Werte zu verraten und uns Populisten auszuliefern.
Ideas matter – and few ideas mattered more in the Balkans in recent decades than the notion that different ethnic groups cannot live together in the long term, and that therefore it is inevitable that one day they need to be separated.
There are many policy makers today who appear to have forgotten the 1980s, and how such ideas – developed by intellectuals, turned into movies and novels by artists, picked up by politicians – prepared the ground for a decade of war, for millions of displaced and for more than 120,000 dead.
But there is no excuse to forget this recent past. This is why ESI will remind those who care about stability in the Balkans about the real reason peace took hold in the Balkans in recent years: a battle of ideas that was won at huge effort and cost.
Two ideas in particular were defeated.
The first: force is justified as a tool of politics to defend ethnic (tribal) group interests. Criminals can become legitimate national heros if they use their weapons in the name of their tribe. And the second: it is not natural for people of different ethnicities, religions, identities to live together. You are only ever save if you are in control. You can never be save as a minority.
In 2004 it looked for a moment as if these ideas would stage a breakthrough in Kosovo. During two days, Kosovo Serbs were viciously attacked by Kosovo Albanian nationalists. And immediately following these two days, leaders in Belgrade argued that this meant that coexistence had become impossible.
As we argued at the time, this logic clearly implied that coexistence was also impossible in Bosnia – where worse atrocities happened for years – and in parts of Macedonia (where fighting had erupted in 2001). It was impossible also in Croatia, and logically everywhere in the Balkans where minorities lived. And minorities lived everywhere: in Serbia, in Montenegro, in Kosovo.
And so we published a report in 2004 which we hoped had some impact on the debate: “The Lausanne Principle”. There we argued that the temptation of “simple” solutions to minority issues – by exchanging either territory of people – is deadly. We pointed to the example of the original Lausanne treaty – and what it meant for generations of Greeks in Turkey. We noted that the whole European (and US) strategy after the 1990s was based on the opposite idea: that Balkan nations were held to the standard of how they treated minorities, and that by showing that minorities were not only save but could live decent lives as equal citizens Balkan nations could prove that they were ready to join the rest of the EU.
Today tribal thinking is raising its ugly head also inside the EU. But this is not a reason to export this toxic idea to the Balkans. It is in particular a huge threat when it comes to the future of Kosovo – and a total betrayal of Kosovo Serbs, who did NOT flee their homes in 1999, nor in 2004. And who would now be told that unless they lived in or moved to Serbia they had no future.
We strongly believe that for this reason it is not a matter only for Pristina and Belgrade to settle their relations. Some things the EU should make clear are not compatible with European principles. For instance, any exchange of people against their will or under pressure would be totally unacceptable. And so should any exchange of territory based on ethnic principles.
On the violence in March that year
Five years into the international administration of Kosovo, two violent days in March 2004 have sorely tested the international commitment to a multiethnic Kosovo. Directed against Kosovo’s minorities and against the international mission itself, the violence has left many wondering whether UNMIK has the capacity to achieve its objectives in the face of open resistance.
This is a dangerous moment for international policy in the region. The urgent priority for the Kosovo mission and the incoming Special Representative of the Secretary General is to reaffirm the international commitment to multiethnic society, at both the diplomatic and the practical level.
This paper argues that the policies needed in response to the March riots must be based on the practical needs of Serbs living in Kosovo today. The paper finds that the current reality of Kosovo Serbs differs from the common perception in important ways. There are still nearly 130,000 Serbs living in Kosovo today, representing two-thirds of the pre-war Serb population. Of these, two-thirds (75,000) are living south of the River Ibar in Albanian-majority areas. Almost all of the urban Serbs have left, with North Mitrovica now the last remaining urban outpost. However, most of the rural Serbs have never left their homes. The reality of Kosovo Serbs today is small communities of subsistence farmers scattered widely across Kosovo.
Against this background, the paper argues that the Serbian government’s plan for creating autonomous Serb enclaves in Kosovo is dangerously flawed. Kosovo Serbs cannot be separated into enclaves without mass displacement of both Serbs and Albanians, increasing hostility and further compromising the security of Serbs. Any attempt to implement this vision leads inevitably towards renewed violence. If, as seems likely, the Belgrade plan is a tactical ploy aimed at securing the partition of Kosovo, it amounts to a betrayal of a large majority of Kosovo Serbs.
The paper argues that a sustainable solution for Kosovo cannot be based upon the Lausanne principle: the negotiated exchange of territory and population common in post-conflict settlements in the Balkans in the early 20th century. Serb communities in Kosovo will only be viable if the territory remains unified and Serbs are able to participate as full citizens in multiethnic institutions. The stakes are extremely high, both for Kosovo Serbs and for the international community, whose entire strategy in the region over the past decade has been based on a commitment to multiethnic society.
The essence of the ‘Standards before Status’ approach is that Kosovo’s institutions of self-government must take responsibility for ensuring that minority communities can live in Kosovo in safety and dignity. The paper proposes three practical measures for making this Standard a reality:
In addition, the paper argues that a renewed effort to overcome the division of Mitrovica would be the most positive response to the March riots, removing Kosovo’s most dangerous flashpoint and opening up possibilities for negotiated solutions on a range of highly contentious issues.
A fundamental precondition, however, is that the international community explicitly rule out any solution for Kosovo based on territorial bargains or the expulsion of minority populations. Whatever its final status, Kosovo must remain whole and undivided, providing a safe home for all of its traditional communities. The Contact Group and the European Union should serve notice that any partition scheme will be vetoed in the Security Council. They should also serve notice that an ethnically cleansed Kosovo will never be seen as fit for sovereignty. Let it be made clear to everyone concerned that the anti-Lausanne consensus that guides policy in Europe today is too solid to be shaken by an angry mob.
The obstacles to implementing the Belgrade plan [of ethnic enclaves throughout Kosovo] are so great that it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that it is merely a negotiating ploy – a maximalist position designed to secure a tactical advantage. If so, what is the agenda that underlies it? The terms of the plan itself suggest an answer.
There is only one area of Kosovo where the proposal could be implemented without violent upheavals – the relatively compact Serb-majority area north of the Ibar. As the plan itself notes, being “close to central Serbia”, the north of Kosovo is safer and easier to defend than the Kosovo interior. Creating an autonomous province in Northern Kosovo would involve undoing some of UNMIK’s recent policy successes, particularly the establishment of a multiethnic court and Kosovo Police Service in North Mitrovica. However, many of the institutions required for an independent administration already exist.
There are those, both among the political class in Belgrade and in the international press, who believe that the complex institutional mechanisms required for “autonomy within autonomy” are impractical, and would rather see a simpler solution: the partition of Kosovo into a fully independent, Albanian south, and a northern part that would remain within Serbia. They believe that this is an outcome on which both sides might agree – the Kosovo government in order to secure independence for most of Kosovo, and the Serbian government as a face-saving compromise.
As one commentator in the Serbian daily Kurir put it: “We should either tell the remaining Kosovo Serbs that they cannot survive there and that they should move to central Serbia, or we should try to divide what still might be divided, thus at least a part of Kosovo really to be part of Serbia.” Cedomir Antic, a historian and member of the liberal group G17 Plus, proposed drawing a “green line” as in Cyprus. He suggests a Security Council resolution to divide the province according to the census data from 1991. Antic erroneously assumes that if “the Serbian canton includes the northern part of Kosovo plus the part around Gracanica,” then “90 percent of Serbs would enter the entity.”
There are also commentators on the international side who consider partition an unavoidable, if not desirable, outcome. As Ian Traynor put it in The Guardian: “The Serbian elite is not so dismayed to see Kosovo Serbs driven out of their villages. It thinks this will reinforce the case for partition. Albanians too may ultimately back a partition that maximises territory and entrenches an independent Kosovo. With a few exceptions they want Kosovo ethnically pure. In the middle stands the NATO-led international administration, which for five years has been pushing a multi-ethnic, multicultural Kosovo that neither side wants.”
Those opposed to partition have pointed to the dangers for Presevo or Macedonia, if the international community acquiesces in further border changes. In fact, the most immediate danger is to the many Serbs (up to 75,000) living in the Albanian-majority south. If the international community were to accept partition, caving in to demands for territorial separation from extremists on both sides, it would leave itself in an extremely weak position to protect the minorities left in the south. This is precisely the scenario that would lead to an intensification of mob violence in Kosovo and the expulsion of the remaining Serbs.
It is not likely that the international community will openly acquiesce in the partition of Kosovo, nor even that the Serbian government will officially advocate abandoning the Serbs living in the south of Kosovo. The real danger is that persistent talk of territorial solutions, along the lines of the Belgrade plan, will set in motion a chain of events that will make this outcome inevitable.
At the turn of the 19th century, when the nations of South Eastern Europe were emerging from a crumbling Ottoman empire, state-building was often accompanied by the brutal expulsion of ethnic and religious minorities. When the Great Powers sat together to redraw the map of the region following major conflicts, they considered forcible population exchange to be a legitimate technique for solving “minority questions”. In 1913, the treaty that followed the Second Balkan War included a Protocol on the exchange of population. In 1919, Greece and Bulgaria approved a Convention Respecting the Reciprocal Emigration of their Racial Minorities. In 1934, 100,000 Muslims were resettled from (Romanian) Dobrudja to Turkey. It was a brutal approach: solving minority problems by eliminating the minorities themselves.
The most infamous of these agreements was the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, which ended the Greek-Turkish war in Asia Minor. At Lausanne, the Greek and Turkish governments and the Great Powers stated as the very first article of the treaty the principle of preventive exchange of population:
“As from the 1st May, 1923, there shall take place a compulsory exchange of Turkish nationals of the Greek Orthodox religion established in Turkish territory, and of Greek nationals of the Muslim religion established in Greek territory.”
The result was the forced displacement of almost 1.5 million people, destroying communities that had existed since ancient times. While many had already been displaced by conflict, there were still over 200,000 Greeks in Anatolia and more than 354,000 Turks in Greece. Many of these were “prosperous and satisfied, feeling secure and having no desire to abandon their homes.” As the Greek prime minister noted at the time, “both the Greek and the Turkish population involved… are protesting against this procedure… and display their dissatisfaction by all the means at their disposal.” With the principal of territorial separation accepted at the international level, however, there was nowhere to appeal, and the expulsions continued to their bitter conclusion.
In the first half of the 1990s, the shadow of Lausanne loomed large as Europe’s democratic governments met once again to decide the fate of South Eastern Europe. During interminable negotiations on the Bosnian war, the leaders of the warring parties sought to reinforce their territorial claims by expelling minority populations. As one Bosnian observed at the time, “The maps of a divided Bosnia-Herzegovina passed around at international conferences have become more of a continuing cause for the tragedy that has befallen us than a solution.” The international community faced a choice between acquiescing in a territorial solution based on ethnic cleansing, or finding a way to reverse the ‘facts on the ground’ which had emerged from the conflict.
The year 1995, with the horror of the Srebrenica massacre and the signing of the Dayton Agreement, marked both the nadir and a turning point in the international approach to the region. The peace agreement could not immediately reverse the injustices of the war. However, it did create the framework of a multiethnic state, and the promise that those expelled from their homes would be able to choose whether or not to return. Annex 7 of the Dayton Agreement contains a provision that is the exact opposite of Article 1 of the Treaty of Lausanne: “All refugees and displaced persons have the right freely to return to their homes of origin. They shall have the right to have restored to them property of which they were deprived in the course of hostilities.”
In the immediate post-war environment in Bosnia and Herzegovina, with the perpetrators of ethnic cleansing still firmly in power, the prospects of reintegrating the communities seemed remote. During 1996, continuing displacement far outnumbered minority returns. In 1998, reconstructed houses were still being torched by angry mobs incited by shadowy figures. Many believed that the idea of restoring a multiethnic Bosnia was a dangerous illusion that would only bring further violence. They argued that the only ‘realistic’ path to security was the partition of the country.
Yet the international response was remarkable. With every violent attack on returnees, the international determination to restore a multiethnic Bosnia and Herzegovina was strengthened. SFOR took a more vigorous approach to supporting return. International reconstruction programmes were made faster and more flexible. In 1999, an enormous international campaign was launched to implement the property laws that enabled displaced persons to recover homes they had lost during the war. By 2000, the tide had turned. Bosniacs and Croats were returning to homes across Central Bosnia, breaking down the armed enclaves left over from the war. By 2002, Bosniacs were returning in significant numbers across Republika Srpska. By 2004, over 200,000 families (around a million people) had recovered possession of their properties. With the success of the return movement, the vicious ideology of Milosevic, Karadzic and Tudjman was thoroughly discredited. Today, as international troops and police are steadily reduced, it is local, multiethnic police forces which provide security for minorities across Bosnia and Herzegovina.
It appeared that the international community had finally developed a principled and effective answer to the vicious logic of ethnic separation. In Kosovo in 1999 and in the Presevo valley in southern Serbia in 2000, the international community responded decisively. When an armed uprising in Macedonia in 2001 threatened to escalate into civil war, there was an immediate intervention to preserve multiethnic society. Each time, the settlement was founded on the conviction that different ethnic communities are able to live together. There were always some who believed that multiethnicity was naïve, utopian or dangerous, and that partition was the only route to stability. They were, however, disregarded. Not only was ethnic cleansing condemned as abhorrent, but systematic programmes to restore property rights and freedom of movement were developed to reverse the new realities created through violence. The very idea that stability could be achieved through exchange of populations was decisively rejected on both moral and pragmatic grounds. Since Srebrenica, international policy in the Balkans has been based on an anti-Lausanne consensus.
There are those who believe that acquiescing in the partition of Kosovo would be a simpler and more pragmatic solution than continuing to defend multiethnic society. Yet the Belgrade plan or any suggestion of partition are premised on a mass resettlement of population – a miniature version of the population exchanges agreed between Turkey and Greece in Lausanne. They are neither simple nor pragmatic. Forcible expulsions (whether officially sanctioned or carried out by an angry mob) would raise tensions to an impossible degree. The people in question – rural communities of subsistence farmers – have shown throughout the past decade that they are deeply attached to their traditional homes and lands, and would only leave under direct threat of violence. As one student of earlier Balkan population exchanges noted:
“The attachment of the individual to the soil where he was born is so deeply rooted that only the fear of an imminent peril to his life may force him to emigrate… On the basis of past experience, one is forced to conclude that the transfer of populations is intimately connected with the prevalence of extensive political upheavals.”
Any territorial exchange could only be accomplished through upheavals more extensive than any Kosovo has seen to date. A solution built upon further ethnic cleansing would be a dramatic failure for one of the most substantial post-conflict interventions ever undertaken, and a huge loss in credibility for the multilateral institutions – the United Nations, NATO, the OSCE and the EU – which are responsible.
It is a measure of the crisis of confidence on the international side that Serbian proposals for ethnic separation were greeted as “a good basis for resuming dialogue” by former Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Harri Holkeri. No longer confident in its ability to defend multiethnic society, the international community is once again flirting with the Lausanne principle. This is a dangerous moment for international policy in the region. Rearticulating a commitment to a multiethnic Kosovo is the most pressing priority for the new SRSG and the wider international community.
Needed: an Anti-Lausanne Consensus
In 1955, a rumour, subsequently proved untrue, spread through Istanbul that Ataturk’s birthplace in Thessaloniki had been vandalised by Greek nationalists. The result was serious rioting in the remaining multiethnic areas of the city, leading to numerous deaths and hundreds of looted and destroyed houses. As one Greek eyewitness noted at the time:
“It lasted less than twenty-four hours… Everyone shut themselves into their houses. Some were injured. They [the mob] destroyed the priest’s house. They tried to set fire to the church, but it would not burn… They did more damage in other places. We (the Greeks) were their main targets. But they also attacked Armenian and Jewish houses, probably without realising. We were afraid they would attack again. That was when people gradually began to emigrate.”
This and many similar episodes were the inevitable product of the Lausanne principle: the process of expulsion of ethnic groups – Greeks from Turkey; Turks from the Balkans – continued over subsequent decades until it reached its inevitable, tragic conclusion. By the 1960s, the idea of ethnic separation had spread to Cyprus, with predictable results. The spirit of Lausanne proved extremely difficult to put back into the bottle.
Will the riots of March 2004, also started by an unsubstantiated rumour and resulting in senseless destruction, set in motion a similar process in Kosovo? Any student of South East European history would find plenty of reasons to be pessimistic. After all, today there are no Greeks in Varna or Istanbul; no Turks in Belgrade or Thessaloniki; no Bulgarians or Circassians in Northern Dobrudja; no Germans in the Vojvodina. Once population transfers became accepted as a legitimate solution to ethnic conflict, it virtually ensured that this was the way in which all ethnic conflicts would end up being resolved.
Yet looking back over the decade since the fall of Srebrenica and the Dayton Peace Agreement, there is also cause for optimism. The international commitment to the right to return, not just as a legal principle but also as a practical reality, has offered a genuine alternative to the Lausanne principle. As a direct consequence, despite the horrific violence of the 1990s, today there are Croats in Travnik, Bosniacs who have reconstructed mosques in Prijedor, large Serb communities in Drvar, Macedonians and Albanians living shoulder to shoulder in Tetovo, Albanians and Serbs side by side in Bujanovac. None of these were easy successes. There was no shortage of violent challenges to multiethnicity: arson of Bosniac houses across Republika Srpska in 1996; riots in Brcko in 1997 which drove out the international officials; murder of Croats in Central Bosnia in 1998; riots against Serb returnees in Drvar in 1998; the destruction of mosques and churches in Presevo and Western Macedonia in more recent times. The violence showed how high the stakes are. Yet none of these events shook the international conviction that a stable Balkans could not be based on the Lausanne principle. By holding its line against territorial solutions, the international community has succeeded in stabilising large parts of the region.
Has the international community’s commitment to multiethnicity been destroyed by the March riots, leading to a gradual acquiescence in the partition of Kosovo? Or will it lead to a strengthened international commitment to multiethnic institutions and a non-negotiable right to return? Much will depend on the response of the international community in the coming period, and the lessons which UNMIK draws from its experience. Much will also depend on the political choices made by politicians in Belgrade and Pristina.
While most of South Eastern Europe is looking forward to joining a Europe which is very different from that of the Lausanne era, the logic of ethnic separatism continues to find adherents in parts of the former Yugoslavia. Giving in to them at this late stage would not only be a betrayal of minority communities across the region, it would also compromise the basic values on which today’s European Union is constructed.
To ensure that the destructive spirit of Lausanne stays in the bottle, three things are required. Efforts to support return and property repossession need to be redoubled. Multiethnic law enforcement institutions need to be strengthened, properly equipped and made politically accountable. Institutions able to deliver effective public services to Kosovo’s minorities in the places and circumstances in which they now live need to be designed and established.
A fundamental precondition for all this to happen, however, is that the international community must explicitly rule out a solution for Kosovo based on territorial bargains or the expulsion of minority populations. Whatever its final status, Kosovo must remain whole and undivided, providing a safe home for all of its traditional communities. The Contact Group and the European Union should serve notice that any partition scheme will be vetoed in the Security Council. They should also serve notice that an ethnically cleansed Kosovo will never be seen as fit for sovereignty. Let it be made clear to everyone concerned that the anti-Lausanne consensus that guides policy in Europe today is too solid to be shaken by an angry mob.