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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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.

“From your own correspondent…” Prologue

Apart from my unconditional passion for the Balkans, this blog takes its vital energy from a more substantive issue I am about to describe.

In Jan. 2011 I had the luck to be selected for a thesis research scholarship aimed at sending students abroad to collect findings for their thesis. Being an international relations student, the scholarship was a rare blessing, which granted me the chance to discover even more the rocky and harsh Montenegro. Pairing that intense research with my previous experiences in Crna Gora, I managed get closer to a decent comprehension of value schemes guiding the various social groups politically active on the independent Montenegrin soil.

Given this unique chance, I decided to use it in the best way I knew, i.e. requesting the support of my supervisors, “forcing” them to follow each and every step of my academic experience.
To cut it short, the pious supervisors of my BA thesis had to suffer a certain amount of  emails, in which I carefully described them the then ongoing process of researching, screening texts, interviewing. Every email’s object was: “Dal vostro inviato a Podgorica”, From your own correspondent in Podgorica.

Two years after, the correspondent moved from Podgorica to Bruxelles (some might say it is an evolution. I seriously doubt it). My new field of research will include “control rooms” filled with Eurocrats, posh conferences, spirited aperitivi with political figures.
Two years after, I had to understand that the path towards Orient imperatively passes through Bruxelles. My bridge to the Balkans had to take a detour from the usual path, heading to the European Capital, building a metaphysical (or ephemeral?) branch of my new bridge to Orient.

To put it less philosophical, I am currently researching on my MA thesis, which will investigate upon the possible effects of the superimposition of the acquis communautaire over former Jugoslavian republics’ internal legal systems. I will focus on the consequences for Serbians and Montenegrins, for their values systems, for their traditional institutions and culture.

In order to have a complete picture of the situation, I would not restrict my research in Bruxelles, but I will have the chance to entertain a research period in Serbia, so to corroborate my findings (or destroy them…) directly on the effective field of application of the aforementioned acquis communautaire.

And I will keep you posted.
Your own correspondent in [Bruxelles/ Novi Sad/ Belgrade/ wherever my research will lead me] is once more on the go.

2012: will it be the end?

Along with the Mayan calendar, it seems that this world’s going to end the 21st December 2012. In order not to find themselves unprepared, however, Kosovars and the international community supporting Kosovo independence are deciding, as reported by Balkan Insight, to raise the anchor of the Serbian province independence more or less by the same period (I guess that Mayan didn’t predicted that!). The news emerged after the though riots of this week, due to the “customs war” between Pristina and Belgrade.

The author is not really sure about the end of the world, though. Nevertheless he has a strong feeling that  it is quite early for Kosovo to make this step.

Durer, “The Horsemen of the Apocalypse”. Every culture has its own way to imagine the end of the world. Unfortunately it seems that there’s just one world to be ended…

Even if a huge amount of critics can be directed to the most influential international actors engaged in supporting Kosovo’s independence, it is the humble opinion of the author that any sudden and rough-and-ready withdrawal of the aforementioned support is far more noxious to the regional stability than the support itself.

Unless European Union engagement towards the region is increasing, the nature of this “European interest” seems not solid and effective enough to keep the parties set at the negotiation table, nor to keep the Kosovar “border” safe.

Solution? The author believes that journalists can lack of ideas and solutions. Since the author is not a journalist, however, it is his duty to try to give his contribution to the issue.
Without a long term strategy (the Athisaari plan is everything but a long term strategy…) for the reconciliation between Serbia and Kosovo, any further unilateral decision made by the international community/Kosovo will be perceived as a threat by Serbians.
The fact that a huge part of Serbian voters perceives Kosovo as a continuous threat represents a far bigger problem, not taken in the due consideration by European diplomatic bodies.

To cut it short, the role of Balkan political leaders in relatively young democracies like Serbia and Montenegro might lead to straining speculation of the EU Enlargement policy. The political arena, lacking the participation of a mighty civil society, are still too sensitive to historically critical issues like Kosovo status. The wish to abandon the field by the international community represents the nth example of lack of serious engagement in supporting neighborhood countries, but for their own internal interests.

Somebody would say: “Fair enough”.

I think that I am disgusted by the vocab I’ve used in this article: a cultural issue should not be addressed in political terms.
However mutual understanding is by definition a compromise.
I made my part.

Corruption and organized crimes: Füle addresses the Balkans

Yesterday, Commissioner Füle, in occasion of the Western Balkan Forum held in Luxembourg, addressed the former Jugoslavian republics on their accession to the EU, defining priorities and welcoming the measures already taken. The complete speech made by DG Enlargment Commissioner can be found here.

The most important pattern noticed by the author of this post is the ease and confidence demonstrated by Commissioner Füle in vaguely defining “corruption and organized crime” as two of the fundamental areas where Montenegro, Serbia and Albania have to show their committment.

It would be of no interest trying to understand whether or not corruption and organized crime exist in those countries and if those two phenomenons are effective or not. A political debate on such bases would lead to a never ending sophistic ping-pong.

Without a more cultural intensive approach, EU will keep on playing with Serbia for long…

A far more interesting approach would be the one encompassing the social and cultural consequences of the way Serbia, Montenegro and Albania intend to “fight” corruption and organized crimes. Avoiding unfruitful diplomatic discourse, is it out of any reasonable doubt that several members of the former governments of those states were somehow related to organized crime and/or were directly involved in pernicious corruptions practices.  It is also indubitably  true that those practices seems to be somehow accepted in Serbia, Montenegro and Albania. Nothing new till now.

A new approach would be the one trying to define in which cultural environment corruption and organized crime prevailed, managing to become the “rule”, the social value upon which individuals and groups based their actions in order to achieve a variety of objectives, from protection to political power, from economic revenues to cultural rights. Along with this new approach, evidently aimed ad analyze the past, there should be a parallel action the objective of which is to define the cultural elements residing in the Balkans societies which could be used as a leverage for the construction (or better to say the reaffirmation) of more democratic and transparent behaviors.

The easiness by which Commissione Füle addresses the Balkan countries is disturbing, although the aim and the audience to which those recommendations were addressed are clearly noticeable: governments. From a mere political point of view, his message could be also evaluated as an encouraging outstretched hand towards Western Balkans governments (please notice, for instance, the deep understanding of Serbian political contingency regarding elections).
The question arose is whether the social reactions to those affirmations are taken in consideration or not: what the EU is planning to do in order to support those governments to make the EU itself more appealing? Probably nothing, since it is in Balkan governments’ duty. From my small experience, however, statements like the Luxembourg one are surely not welcomed by the majority of Serbians, Montenegrins and Albanian electors.

I am not that sure that Serbia, Montenegro, Albania and even Croatia can cope with the issue of “EU’s popularity” in a reasonable timeframe. The clash of values between the Balkans and the EU may be not so strong as, for example, the one between Turkey and the rest of Europe. History taught us, however, that in Balkans “grey zones” several subtle cultural questions are hidden, the consequences of which are not totally unpredictable, but not even taken in consideration by major international players.
Time could not be “ripe” for a discussion on the differences between EU cultural values and Balkan ones. But time will never be “ripe” without a serious commitment by both parties on the matter.