Kosovar journalist defines Kosovo as the first non-State failed State.

Subheading: and he does not realise it.

Yesterday, EuObserver published an article written by the Kosovar journalist Ekrem Krasniqi. I strongly recommend you, dear reader, to have a look at that article and, if you do not faint because of the,  somehow intoxicating use of the modal verb “shall”, I beg you to come back to this blog and read what I have to say on the matter.

Welcome back.

One can be disturbed by Krasniqi’s article for many reasons: some could be Serbian nationalists, and therefore angry at a Kosovar journalist by default; some could disagree with his vision of the EU as a weak political actor; some might simply hate his writing “style”.

However, the reason why I utterly despise the article is the idea it carries, the image Krasniqi gives of the Kosovar government, scoring the clumsiest, goofiest auto-goal ever against Kosovo. I humbly deplore his article because he brutally demonstrates that my criticism of EU’s enlargement and neighboring policy towards the Balkans might have theoretically solid base, but it has to face the abrupt reality of ignorance and political idiocy of Balkan ruling class. And apparently, also of Balkan media.

I am pretty sure, dear reader, that if you ended up reading this blog you are somehow accustomed with the concept of acquis communautaire, the pantagruelic sum of norms derived from EU’s legal production, with which every candidate country has to comply before joining the club.

Lately, in my MA thesis which hopefully will be published soon, I compare EU enlargement with the theoretical backbone of colonisation: the “standard of civilisation“. I am not alone in criticising the very core of the acquis: in 2003 Silva and Sampson theorised that the acquis communautaire can be defined as the 21st century genealogy of new colonial paradigm within the EU borders. Why?

The concept of standard of civilisation originates from the early theories of international law. Prerequisites to be considered a State were (and still are) effective control over certain territory and legitimate rule over a populace subject to the State control. But those prerequisites were not enough to define entities worth to be considered as equals by the European powers. The standard of civilisation can be described as the law of those nations which are “civilised”, as opposed to “non-civilised barbarian tribes”:

“One can define a “law” or “standard of civilization” as an expression of the assumptions, tacit and explicit, used to distinguish those that belong to a particular society from those that do not. By definition, “hose who fulfill the requirements of a particular society’s standard of civilization are brought inside its circle of ‘civilized’ members, while those who do not so conform are left outside as ‘not civilized’ or possibly ‘uncivilized’.”

(Silva & Sampson, 2003).

Therefore, standard of civilisation had three major functions.
First, it has been used as a legal framework, as a principle of international law dividing the world in three major categories: civilised countries, semi-civilised countries and barbarians. This division reflects the need of modern European powers for reliable and equal partners in the colonies. Civilised and semi-civilised countries were considered as such in case they could bear the burden of reciprocity with European countries, in terms of rights, obligations and expectations of the political interaction.
Therefore, the second implicit function of the standard of civilisation is to it sort among different territories and cultures, legitimizing the European colonisation over certain territories rather than others, basing such legitimisation on the level of civilisation encountered. The “white man’s burden” and its French version “mission civilisatrice” were internationally applied by the Berling Congress and were further used by the League of Nations in order to legitimise the protectorate, an international law instrument to perpetrate colonialism.
Thirdly, the standard of civilisation became an hegemonic idea. No relations between European and non-European countries could take place without the compliance of the latter with the European standards.

Now, doesn’t it look like EU’s enlargement strategy? No? Substitute the words “standard of civilisation” with “acquis communautarie“, “civilisation” with “European identity” and the game is pretty done. Therefore, one might say that the enlargement process is in fact a revised version of the French “acquis colonial”, i.e. an attempt to “civilise” barbarian, philistine, inferior cultures and elevate them at the European level. One might also say that this is what is happening right now in Serbia, or in Montenegro, or, even more, in Kosovo, where the “mission civilisatrice” has a clear name and an international mandate: EULEX.

Bismark dividing Africa: will we experience Merkel ruling Kosovo?Image: Congo Conference, Berlin, 15 Novmember 1884 to 26 February 1885, “Everyone gets his share”, French caricature; wood engraving from “L’Illustration”, 1885/I.

Of course, it is not that easy. I have discussed these theories in my MA thesis, describing the current enlargement process and providing a solid theoretical base to each and every word posted on this article. My point is not to demonstrate that the EU is in fact colonising the Balkans. I am rather trying to stimulate a critical thinking over the way certain EU’s policies are developed and put in place. So, now that I have ironically used the “lite version” of my MA thesis’ arguments as a crowbar to dis-embed your belief over the EU’s neighborhood policy, it’s time to go back to the objective of this article: the Kosovar journalist’s proposals for a German restoration of Kosovo.

Let us assume that EU enlargement and neighborhood policy are in fact driven by neo-colonial practices. What Krasniqi is proposing in its article is a brutal, consensual taking over of Kosovo by German authorities, which shall in fact establish a real State over a territory which is now in the lap of the gods (and therefore, as Krasniqi describes it, it is not a State…). The Kosovar journalist foresees a better future for Kosovo and for the whole region if the Germans would export their education system, their political system, their economic system (and I guess he didn’t went further just for editorial reasons…), on the base of 20-years long contract.
To my eyes, in the light of the previous part of this article, Krasniqi’s proposal looks like the African/Indian/Asian/you name it local chieftain requesting the support of the East India Company. Quoting from Krasniqi: “Germany should install its experts in key Kosovo government departments” as, for example, the UK did in India, Iran, Burma, or as France did in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, or as Germany and later Belgium did in Congo, or as other European powers did in countless other political entities scattered on the globe, disappeared because of the colonial era.

To use modern terminology, Krasniqi implicitly defines Kosovo as a non-State failed State: Kosovo declared its independence, but apparently it is not able to enforce it and therefore it is not a State; however, Kosovo represents a threat to the security and stability of the whole region because of its failed government, its criminal economy and its bad relationships with neighbors, making it a look alike to a failed State.
Amazing. This goes beyond the wildest dream of the craziest CIA political analyst.

I find Krasniqi’s proposal simply ridiculous. It is in fact so ridiculous that I am seriously challenged to consider it is a badly made attempt to criticise the Kosovar government and the international community (which is responsible for the current situation in the Balkans, as Krasniqi rightfully reports). If it is not a boutade, and if there are people in Kosovo which would agree with such a proposal, I believe that most probably what they deserve is indeed a neo-colonialist regime, at the edge of Europe, in the 21st century, over a territory which experienced war, perpetual instability and a fake 5-years freedom.

Maybe it is true, as Santayana says, that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. Apparently Kosovar journalists and politicians should go back to school.

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The bridge of contention

Courtesy of Al Jazeera Balkans

When I decide to start this blog and recalling the famous Andrić’s quote on bridges, I surely didn’t have in mind the monstrous Croatian project to connect its two mainland parts.

I am talking about a well known issue to Balkanologists, which has been recently brought up to the major media by SETimes.

The project of the bridge

What is the role of the EU in this inter-States issue?
As we all know, Croatia is about to become the 28th EU Member State, further expanding the borders of the Union, actually taking Slovenia’s place as the last EU “stronghold” before “No man’s land”.
As reported by SETimes, Croatia is willing to use the cohesion fund to finance a project which might hamper Bosnia and Hercegovina rightful access to the sea. It is my belief that the creation of a bridge to physically (and politically) “skip” BiH would not help neither Bosnia, nor Croatia and especially will harm the reconciliation process in the area. And lurch EU’s reputation in BiH (if needed…).

First of all, the United Nations Convention on the law of the see (Montego Bay)  apparently does not provide any lawful ground for an arbitrated settlement of the dispute. The territorial sea of BiH is entirely encircled by the internal sea of Croatia, thus creating an unprecedented case. Furthermore, as immediately noted down by Mladen Klemencic “Bosnia-Hercegovina does not have any port facilities on its strip of coast, all transportation will be directed to the nearest Croatian port of Ploce”. As we know, there is no theoretical right of peaceful passage in internal waters, unless bilater/multilateral agreements among States regulate such manner. However, since the project forecasts the construction of a bridge over the sea strip right in front of Bosnian territorial sea, it might be argued that the project would harm BiH rights to access high sea. Apart from fascinating legal theoretical rumination, it is clear that the only long term solution shall be based on a political, negotial agreement.

And here it comes the role of the EU.

Although BiH’s chances to join the Union in the medium term are proximal to 0%, in the unfortunate case the EU shall sponsor the bridge project, it will clearly further undermine its image, presenting a picture of EU as a “big brother”, willing to support who’s joining the club at the expenses of other, weaker States. Fortunately, it seems that DG REGIO Commissioner Hahn did not discuss any EU’s participation in the creation of the bridge. For now.

Even if the Commission will maintain a distant position from the project, it is clear that Croatia will do everything in its power to implement the infrastructure. It is necessary to find a more sustainable solution to the issue, bearing in mind the regional cooperation. I have passed through Neum more than once. Any traveller willing to reach Montenegro or Dubrovnik from Trieste will experience the unfortunate misadventure of crossing far too many borders. My love and passion for the Balkans, paired with a couple of coffees and the usual “traveling coma” typical of any Balkan busses customer, helped me sustaining the consequences of this ridiculous case of international law of the sea.

How to solve this issue? In my opinion the best solution would be an extraterritorial highway through Neum. Nothing new under the sun: extraterritorialities are common instruments in the hand of wise politicians to connect States. Given the lack of know how and the difficulties in finding resources from the Bosnian side, both States might find this solution profitable from the purely economic perspective. In fact, the construction of a high way shall result cheaper than then bridge, allowing travelers to shorten their trip.

Such a solution, however, lies on a broader normalisation of the relationship between BiH and Croatia. I humbly believe that 23km of Bosnian coasts are useless without dock facilities and clear and reliable access to the Mediterranean. Given the rightful and unquestionable Bosnian sovereignty over Neum municipality, it is necessary to find a common solution to what is, in fact, a common problem. Ideally speaking, BiH could offer part of Neum territory to be internationalised , in exchange of partial exploitation of Ploce port, based on an international agreement with Croatia. In this way, Bosnian rights over Neum coastline will be preserved, guaranteeing  the fruitful use of Ploce and allowing Croatia to build the highway within the extraterritorial regime hitherto created. Goods shall freely move from Ploce to Neum and from Neum to the rest of BiH without major delays. In the same way, Croatia would finally link Southern Dalmatia with the rest of the country.
The construction of the bridge is pointless and dangerous for two main reasons. The first is of a purely practical matter: in the moment Bosnia will join the EU and/or agreements regarding the permeability of the Croatian/Bosnian border shall enter into force, the bridge will be de facto useless. Furthermore, we shall keep in mind the volume of transports in the region, which, in my experience, do not justify the creation of such an expensive infrastructure. The second reason concerns political strategy and neighboring relations. Croatian attempt to build the bridge represents a brutal show off of political and economic power, which in the end denotes a politically obtuse and obsolete behaviour. Without undermining the importance of reconciliation, Zagreb and Sarajevo shall look at the bridge case as a chance to practically overcome nationalistic disputes, demonstrating political maturity and wise management of State resource.

In the end, the bridge case is one of the nth chances the Balkans have to show to the outer world (and demonstrate to themselves) that reconciliation is possible, necessary and it is not economically impossible (especially in the fields of common infrastructures).
Honestly, however, I do not expect a sustainable solution of the matter.

“Kill a Đurđe, save a lamb”: Serbian politics in need for new ideas

The international community of journalist engaged in the Balkans analysed next Serbian elections with wealth of details. As you will read soon, I lack of such zeal. I also lack of interest for political bargain, thus I believe it is useless to discuss “political programmes” brought up by the various candidates. Partially endorsing Radio Free Europe perspective on the issue, I shall, however, express my opinion, starting from congratulating with Boris Tadić.

Psychologists played a far more important role in Balkan politics than other professional guild. Radovan Karađić was a psychologist, enough said. Philosophers might have played a more important role, but their representative did not have enough time…

Tadić managed to interpret Serbian society better than others; he was the mastermind behind the smart move resign so to force the organisation of presidential and parliamentary elections together; his politics of balance between the two “missions” of the country (EU and Kosovo) kept, somehow, internal stability.

Thus, is the Sarajevo-born psychologists likely to become, for the third time, the new Serbian President? Well, it does not seem so sure.

Last news from Serbia report the arrest of eight Albanians accused of war crimes, in the southern village of Bujanovac close to the South-Eastern administrative delimitation with Kosovo. The move shall be interpreted as a clear retaliation of Belgrade against Pristina, after the EULEX-Kosovar mixed judges-panel found Fatmir Limaj not guilty of ordering and conducting torture in a Kosovo camp in 1999. The case deeply moved Serbian society, which, of course, did not welcome the recent sentence.

Ivica Dačić, Minister of Interior until tonight seems the most suitable candidate to transform Limaj-look-alike social unrest’s causes in votes. His move against Pristina looks also like a last minute attempt to convince part of the electorate that a stronger, mode decisive Serbian government is needed in order to face the challenges posed by the international community.

Yes, dear reader, that is what we are talking about. The role played by the international community is extremely important in (last four…) Serbian elections. Sticking to current elections, foreign actors’ relevance is such that the only substantial difference between the programmes of the two forefront candidates (the aforementioned psychologist and the economist Nikolić) is the timeframe by which they embraced the EU Membership as the country’s mission. Tadić got they idea first, recently followed by the (once) more radical Nikolić.

Dačić’s position is quite different. Although he is expected to collect merely 12% of the ballots, he’s proving to be the candidate showing the closest contact with population, translating the belief of more than 50% of Serbians, willing to abandon the EU path so to embrace the one which leads to Moscow. As I analysed in my recent academic researches on the matter, EU-commissioned statistical findings depict Serbian society as averagely opposing the EU.

So, why Dačić is expected to hold the balance of power rather than compete for the presidency?
First of all the game is over when the game is over: I pay the due respect to political analysis, but I would not be surprised if Dačić would get more votes than expected.
A more comprehensive analysis of the issue would take in consideration also the widespread status of drowsiness, insensitiveness of Serbian electors.

The real news, in fact, will be the grand total of Serbian voters. Data related to citizen trust in politicians dropped dramatically in the last years. The collimation of the two biggest parties’ policy watered the level of political confrontation, leaving the rhetorical arena to “extremists” (both nationalist and of course liberals, which, in my understanding of Serbian politics, remain an extreme group).

As Florian Bieber smartly wrote, these elections will be everything but historical. Is this a step forward the normalisation of Serbian political life, including the abandonment of XIX century rhetoric? I do not think so.

Be that as it may, I believe that todays biggest event for many Serbs remains Đurđevdan. I have bought some lamb myself, although there is no Spring to celebrate in Brussels…

Saint George Statue in Upper Zagreb is the only one in the Balkans which depicts the famous saint while praying over the freshly dead body of the enemy dragon. A rare example of pity and respect.

Be ready for the Towel Day!

The 25th of May the whole world (or the part worth to be called as such) will celebrate the “Towel Day”, in memoriam of Douglas Noel Adams, visionary creator of the Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy.

The Bridge will participate to the celebrations, given the importance Adams’ novel had in the development of the twisted mind behind this blog. As an example, here you are an arrogant quote from my MA thesis, recently brought up to light by Rodolfo Toè:

‎”Most probably, a work like this (or better to say, the attempt to produce this analysis fruitfully) would have no meaning in Hitchhikers’s Guide to the Galaxy’s universe. The existence of the Babel fish would, in fact, sort out most of the misunderstanding, controversies, deceptions and mistakes derived from the different languages we all use.”

What is a Babel fish? Buy the complete five-books saga and find it out. This post is dedicated to Towel Day, thus we shall investigate more on the meaning of such an object, as Adams describes it:

“A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have “lost”. What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

Hence a phrase that has passed into hitchhiking slang, as in “Hey, you sass that hoopy Ford Prefect? There’s a frood who really knows where his towel is.” (Sass: know, be aware of, meet, have sex with; hoopy: really together guy; frood: really amazingly together guy.)”

As clearly proven by Adams, a towel is the most diplomatic, elegant and practical tool for moderns “internationals”. Especially for those, like the undersigned, who are obliged to beg somebody else hospitality during their researches, their leisure trips, their job journeys.

If my 5th & 1/2 sense is right, most of the readers of this blog are inner, hidden (maybe not so hidden…) Hitchhikers. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. I would rather say that it is a new status symbol, it denotes a clear understanding of world’s social functioning. It is an expression of a new awareness.

That is why, my dear Hitchhikers, we shall show our devoted awareness to the world and share a towel with the rest of mankind.
May 25th will be the day: bring a towel with you, wherever you are.
Please feel free to share your pics of Towel Day celebrations on The Bridge Facebook Page
!!! 

And remember: elegance is an attitude.

Thus, LONG LIVE THE TOWEL!

p.s.: this blog will also advocate for the creation of an international Babel fish day. Unfortunately I am pretty sure that those who believe in any god would not endorse the campaign…

From your own correspondent: time for change

Dear All,

Thank you very much for have followed my (mis)adventures linked to the research for my MA Thesis.

As Abruzzo traditions impose, I have celebrated properly the successful defense of the thesis, which granted me the highest mark: 110/110 cum laude.

This would not have been possible without the support of many professionals, professors and friends who supported me morally. academically, financially and emotionally until the moment I walked the stairs of Gorizia University’s aula magna.

Apart from drinking and eating and dancing, I have also continued my personal researches, trying to follow the possible future outcome of next Serbian elections. My opinion will be out in few days.

Overall, I can confirm that writing my MA thesis resulted in the most satisfying experience I’ve ever had. I said “confirm” because I had the same impression while writing my BA thesis on Montenegro independence. Thus, after attentive scientific experiments, I can corroborate my previous theory with fresh, brand new findings.

Some of you might be interested in the non-emotional, less introversive findings of my MA thesis. Fair. Let me thank you in advance for such curiosity.
As a matter of fact, the outcome of my research might be published soon by a Serbian institution. I will keep you posted. However, from time to time, I will make sure that a selection of arguments exposed in my thesis will be published on this blog, in a brand new section.

So, what’s next?

My eagerness to keep researching will not be stopped by the lack of perspective in the academia, nor for the objective difficulties our generation has to face when it comes to “finding a job”.

It is clear though (as demonstrate by my recent inactivity… I beg your pardon), that the time I will be able to devote to such research can be effected by the weight/mass of my wallet, by the emptiness of my fridge and related emptiness of my stomach. I am not trying to touch you, to make you feel pity for me: personally I don’t like easy challenges. What I really mean is: unite we stand, divided we fall. The Bridge opens its doors to any international relations expert, anthropology aficionado, international law student, European law critics willing to share clever discussions, sleepless writing nights and vivid debates on the topics of this website. The objective is simple: as a very good friend of mine uses to say: “life’s too short to read bad books or stupid news!”, ergo  the goal is to provide impartial, alternative, high-quality commentaries on issues afflicting the Balkans, Europe and their relationship. Honestly, many write about these topics, but very few provide something more than a placid re-interpretation of facts. Apart from “imaginative” ultra-nationalists, of course…

For this reason, I am announcing you that The Bridge is changing. both graphically and content-wise.

I hope that you will keep staying connected to us.
I also hope that many more  of you will actively join, walking a mile with us, on The Bridge.

I miei due soldi sulla Jolie.

1

Usually my blog reports other blogs and newspapers, rather then quoting them fully. Actually, this will be the first time I reblog a post appeared on a different blog.
Iota! is Rodolfo Toè’s blog, who is a brilliant Italian journalist based in Sarajevo. He publishes for several national and international newspapers, including the Courrier des Balkans.
Oh, it’s also a great friend of mine. So not to be accused of nepotism, I shall say that we do not agree on everything. This might not sound convincing, but I can’t really come up with anything else, but posting you his latest post.
Rodolfo’s review of Jolie’s movie grasps a reality which is very difficult to understand, and which is culpably left aside by many journalist dealing with the Balkans. “Grey zone” do not make newspapers’ columns more popular. Rodolfo faces the same challenge Angelina Jolie arrogantly tried to win with her movie. Jolie lost, blatantly, while Rodo won it.
That’s why he’s not going to win a Pulitzer.