IA-Forum speaks with Mr. Ylber Hysa, a member of the Kosovo Parliament, Vice President of the Kosovo Progressive movement “ORA”, and political analyst in the Balkans. He is also currently a visiting Fulbright Scholar at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington, DC. (1/18/2005)
International Affairs-Forum: Mr. Hysa, what is the role of international organizations in Kosovo? Where are they failing and why?
Mr. Hysa: The United Nations Organization came in Kosovo in 1999 with an improvised agenda that, considering there was a decade of segregation and gross violation of human rights under Slobodan Millosevic’s regime, has not been the most suitable structure. As such, the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) has not adopted itself to the nation-building framework and has lacked an exit strategy. We are entering the sixth year of UN administration and there still aren’t solid solutions that address the final status of Kosovo and the building of democratic institutions that are within its mandate according to the UN Security Council resolution 1244. Other problems have included conflicting agendas, lack of harmonization, and long term thinking. Consequently, this has created a serious stagnation of political, social and economic progress that are part of the strategy “Standards before the Status”- to be addressed in 2005. This political unwillingness and inaction has significantly increased the risk that UNMIK will soon lose its credibility and be doomed to a complete failure.
IA-Forum: What about the role of NGOs?
Mr. Hysa: Immediately after the war, the number of NGO’s had increased to hundreds. However, after a short period of time, other crises and conflicts had emerged in other parts of the world and most of these organizations left to pursue their own agendas elsewhere. Nevertheless, some of these organizations have played a vital role in the emergency phase and rebuilding.
IA-Forum: Do economic projects launched from outside Kosovo help remedy the rifts between all ethnicities in Kosovo or does an ethnic re-rapprochement help Kosovo to revitalize its economy?
Mr. Hysa: The economic prosperity in Kosovo does not depend directly on ethnic cooperation. It is not a key for economic success. On the contrary, economic development depends heavily on other factors that are closely associated with the overall governance in Kosovo and transformation of powers from UNMIK to the locals. Because of UNMIK’s rigid interpretation of the so-called “socialy-owned property”, Kosovo is the only place in the former communist hemisphere in the Balkans that has not undergone privatization. This has been confused with hundreds of organizations and companies that have been publicly owned; and has left Kosovo without laws or regulations that guarantee successful economic development. Moreover, Kosovo has not been able to reap the benefits of outside investment due to the unresolved final status. Therefore, it is crucial that UNMIK starts transforming political powers to the Kosovars so they can start developing a long term economic policy in the interest of the society. For example, fiscal policy has created a huge trade deficit followed by an incredibly high value added tax (VAT) for importers who are discouraged from importing necessary goods (i.e. industrial technology) from outside to start investing within the territory of Kosovo. Furthermore, Kosovo is disadvantaged in many other areas including an inability to gain loans from international organizations because of its unresolved status and other benefits that are reserved for independent countries.
IA-Forum: Does that mean that an economic development and investment from outside would help bring all communities closer to each other?
Mr. Hysa: I believe that if UNMIK transfers political powers and decision making process to the Kosovars as soon as possible, they (Kosovars) will have a chance to prove that everything is closely associated with the lingering unresolved status. Furthermore, Kosovo has a huge Diaspora and its remittances contribute to a number of projects. However, the flow of money into Kosovo from this Diaspora will significantly increase if investors are certain that their investments do not run into political risks and loss of capital due to Kosovo’s ambiguous future. With regard to Mitrovica, which continues to remain bitterly divided along ethic lines, a program which would stretch far beyond current political landscape by creating some sort of trusteeship program - a Euro zone -would ease tensions and bring stability to that region.
IA-Forum: In a recent interview for IA-Forum, Mr. Kiro Gligorov, former president of Macedonia, said that Kosovo should not gain its independence for two reasons. One is that Kosovo’s independence will boost aspirations among Albanians for a “Greater Albania” and second reason is that Kosovo cannot become independent until all minorities in Kosovo feel safe in their own homes.
Mr. Hysa: I think that the solution to this problem is exactly the opposite of Mr. Gligorov’s remarks. In order to create regional stability and prevent a spillover effect outside Kosovo’s borders, including Macedonia where over 25% are Albanians, the best solution would be that Kosovo be recognized as an independent state as soon as possible. This approach and awareness can be heard today even among prominent Macedonian politicians and is encouraged by the present coalition in Macedonia. I think that for as long as we prolong this situation, we will always have to deal with political repercussions that may easily be regional in scope. Addressing Kosovo’s final status by respecting the will of majority will certainly make Kosovar Albanians responsible for the protection of minorities.
IA-Forum: Will the independence of Kosovo increase aspirations among Albanians to seek and create a “Greater Albania”?
Mr. Hysa: Any delay in resolving the final status will only increase chances for a fait accompli among the Serbian radicals to partition Kosovo, which in turn, would boost aspirations among those people seeking to promote the idea of a “Greater Albania”. Only in this case would there be a “Greater Albania”, which would come as a result of a radical Serbian agenda rather than from an independent Kosovo, or as project of the Albaniann political elites.
IA-Forum: Are Kosovar Albanians ready for an independent state considering security issues such as protecting their borders and creating a safe environment for minorities without being under some international supervision similar to that in Bosnia?
Mr. Hysa: I think that the most suitable solution to this problem is something that I call independence plus. With this I mean that there ought to be a road map which would create a technical opportunity for Kosovo to move along with other countries in the region towards integration into the EU. In this context, the presence of some international factors such as NATO and EU is welcome and necessary. These organizations will never be opposed from the majority of Kosovars. They would have an advisory or monitoring presence that will help Kosovo achieve its prosperity and stability.
IA-Forum: Does the decentralization of Kosovo serve as a nucleus for the territorial partition of Kosovo?
Mr. Hysa: I think that the decentralization plan that attempts to satisfy only the Serb minority in Kosovo is not the right solution. Every decentralization plan that euphemizes the division of Kosovo along ethnic lines is a scenario of instability. On the other hand, every plan that encourages the Serb minority to seek independence from Belgrade and join the Kosovo institution would encourage an open debate for accommodating a common agenda for all Kosovars without having to seek partition within the territory of Kosovo.
IA-Forum: Do you think that Kosovo has its own identity in its pursuit towards European integration or is there a hidden agenda among Albanian politicians that Kosovo has a historical and political right to join EU by choosing its road there through Tirana?
Mr. Hysa: All Albanian politicians in Kosovo, Macedonia and Albania have explicitly stated that they seek to join EU as a region within their own territories. Each of these states wish to join EU structures as independent countries, and in close partnership with each other. This is a democratic interest of all Albanians in the Balkans and serves as an opportunity for everybody in this region to understand the significance of cooperation and prosperity. In this aspect, there are no aspirations or hidden agendas among Albanians to seek EU integration by pursuing that extreme road.
IA-Forum: Mr. Hysa, thank you for your interview.
Mr. Hysa: You are welcome!
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