[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] T [/yt_dropcap]he Serbian Project for a New Yugoslavia, and Albania, must receive the response of Albanian political doctrine that should be understood as a defensive trench towards defending national interests.
On every network of crises in the European Continent and beyond, Southern Slavs, especially the Serbs, although they may have partially carried the blame of starting a war (as it was the case in World War I or in the recent conflicts that turned Yugoslavia into a closed chapter of the World’s history), they have proved to be among the main beneficiaries of these bloody conflicts.
Slovenia and Croatia have currently emerged as the most beneficiaries from the Former Yugoslav republics, during the disintegration process of Yugoslavia. Under the Yugoslav Federation, these two recently independent coutries have played a key role during the Cold War, however with the idea for a New Yugoslavia, including the Albanian question, Belgrade aspires to secure its lion’s share.
Ideas for a Balkanic Federation have appeared together with communism in the previous century “that originated from the Cold Weather” (Jean Paul Sartre), more specifically with Leninism in the beginning of the XX century. Meanwhile the idea for a Balkanic Federation appeared time after time under the denomination of a Greater Bulgaria or a Greater Serbia and always without including Albanians!?
However, the current initiative led by Johannes Hahn, European Commissioner in charge of Neighbourhood Policy & Enlargement Negotiations, with the aim of creating a common Balcanic market, based on the EU example, had its inception in the Paris Initiative. Parties through this agenda expressed their willingness to cooperate closely, without ignoring the creation of a new federation or a Balkanic confederation named as New Yugoslavia, which embodies pure geopolitical ambitions. Such an aspiration is dangerous, bizarre, and in its core, is an idea that has failed throughout history, as a result it seems to be a New Yugoslavia, without Slovenia and Croatia, a creation that was an offensive led by Serbian Fascism…
In one of my papers published two years ago (February 2015) I made a reference to the weight of geopolitical changes and their consequences to South East Europe. In this era of constant significant changes, I stated then, especially now when East and South East Europe are the ground of clashes between western concepts on modern statecraft and those of eastern governance that consists on a limited sovereignty (the theory of Brezhniev embraced today by President Vladimir Putin). As a result, the theory over a nation-state appears again in the platform as a structure that guarantees pertinent relations between the state and its citizens, as a result it affects freedom, peace and security.
There are many reasons, as a result such an observation that only in a nation state democracy is able to flourish in its ample meaning, it finds a breeding ground for its own genuine strengthening, at a present time when political mafia and criminal gangs have suffocated and engulfed the government of Kosovo at its worst conditions, after a biblical migration of its citizens, an act that nullifies the legitimacy of Prishtina’s current government, it even takes a greater and a more specific weight. In this current context, we may conclude that two long years are lost.
The Return of Geopolitics and Reconfigurations Inspired by Hegemony
The new wave of demonstrations that have surged from disappointed citizens, are returning in the region. In this thunderstorm created by a return of original geopolitics, open tendencies on the reconfiguration of Serbia as a hegemonic force in the region, were reflected within the failed coup that took place during the recent elections process in Montenegro.
The reaches of these tentacles are clearly seen in Macedonia and in Republika Srpska (Bosnia and Herzegovina), in the case of the latter, such aspirations are even more visible.
What was happening at the brink of elections’ date in Serbia, gave you the impression of the Yalta conference results, that revived our memories of modern South Eastern European history, with the blessing of a few political centers with a special influence in the EU!
The meetings of Vučić in Berlin and Moscow, and his special gratitude addressed to President Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, only a day after the elections’ results, as if he knew the outcome of these elections, is another testimony of his close association with the two European Giants.
On March 27th, the Prime Minister of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, a presidential candidate in the recent elections, had visited Moscow and conducted a long meeting with President Putin. On April 2nd, he was elected as Serbia’s new President. On April 6th, he shared with the public his project for a New Yugoslavia, including Albanian territories.
It is sufficient to study such a political agenda of Vučić, to reach clear conclusions on the direction that is taken by regional geopolitics. Agreements for the Balkans and Serbia’s role in the new Geopolitics, is already an open secret, they are implemented with the consent of “the big brother.”
The opening of the Balkan’s gates towards Russia, and the agreement among several decision-making centers in Europe, connected with fierce reactions towards the creation of Kosovo’s Army, a shift from the Security Force of Kosovo, ought to be looked upon these secret agreements. Moreover, the recent actions of President Hashim Thaçi are a Déjà-vu of its own style.
Europe’s bet and Sen. John McCain III visit to the region
According to former Albanian Ambassador Shaban Murati, “under the unmotivated will of Serbia going towards the European Union and not towards Russia, some government leaders from EU member countries have placed their bet on President Vučić and they estimate that under his leadership Serbia must have a leadership role or play a key role in Western Balkans.”
In such a turmoil of polital events, on April 10th, John McCcain, one of the most influential US Senators arrived in Belgrade, meanwhile on April 13th he held a speech in the National Assembly of Kosovo and had a series of meetings with the leadership of Prishtina. Serbian main stream media made it clear that the main topics of discussions between Sen. McCain and Mr. Vučić, and their source of disagreement, was the foreign policy orientation of Serbia and its posture towards Kosovo.
It appears that the European bet on the US Senator was not as trustworthy as expected. Such a visit took place at a time when protests against Belgrade’s dictatorship, promoted by President-elect Vučić and his reactionary allies, were going on for weeks. The symptoms of a political awakening, respectively the events of a Velvet Revolution, almost similar to Ukraine, are venerated.
More specifically to avoid the attention of western diplomacy from these inner sub layers, the ideological apprentice of Slobodan Milošević, the one who is behaving as a J. B. Tito junior, is aiming to reestablish the old Yugoslavia, while this time including Albania, with aims to even surpass Tito’s model.
Such an attempt was made public on April 6th, in his first interview given to Politico, as Serbia’s President Elect. While at first site, it appears that it is nothing new, since similar ideas have been articulated on this part of the continent since the beginning of XX century, initially with progressive premises of national and social equality, and later they were always tailored to serve the Serbian hegemonic aspirations.
The idea of a Balkan Federation came all together with a slavic communism that “emerged from the Cold Weather” (Jean Paul Sartre). After the Second World War reappeared again as a greater Bulgaria and at times as a greater Serbia. At other times, it emerged as an idea that would include in it all orthodox communities of the Balkans in the concept of greater Bulgaria or greater Serbia. At a time when Bulgaria was ruled by Georgi Dimitrov, a communist leader, who included also Albanian issue on his plans.
Such an idea was avoided only with the break up of Yugoslavia from Stalin’s circle of influence and its descent towards western influences. But, the current initiative supported publicly by the EU commissioner Johannes Hahn and other EU leaders under a total secrecy, with the idea that the region must evolve into a common Balkanic market, to sort of imitate the EU example, regardless of the fact that the Balkan integration idea is fully based on the communist concepts for a Balkan Federation that had three options.
1.Greater Yugoslavia, the former Yugoslavia Republics respectively plus Albania; 2. Balkan Federation – Greater Yugoslavia with Bulgaria; 3. Expanded Balkan Federation – a Federation with Romania and Greece, and even a few versions of it that include Turkey, is acquiring support all the way to Brussels! Such circumstances are making it even more dangerous, not to say that they are shaped by a Byzantine mindset.
While being very naive and politically irrational, Serbian Prime Minister expressed these ideas in the US Newspaper (Politico), with exact terms as it really is, a New Yugoslavia, a restructured concept, without Slovenia and Croatia, but with the two Albanian Independent Republics, Albania and Kosovo that will replace the two Yugoslav original republics (Slovenia and Croatia), while making the two Albanian countries become vassals within a Serbian Hegemony.
From the Strategy of Brussels towards Albania, and especially after the War of Kosovo Liberation Army to secure the territorial liberation and independence of Kosovo, there can be identified two venues of European political action, that are erupting as a result of a domestic crisis within EU Institutions and from a clear absence of a political perspective within Brussels and European Commission: the first line is a project that would move with two speeds, while creating the European Core (Germany, France), that would be highly rigid, and would aim to consider its periphery as an addendum or a security belt and; the Second Europe, as an upcoming Federation of equal nations regardless of their population number, a product that derives from a liberal concept and a breath of liberal democracy that has proved to be very positive and been cultivated by Modern Europe.
The first scenario of Europe has a need for real alibis that would archive ongoing membership aspirations of South East European Nations into the books of ancient history. An example of this attitude is the atypical attitude of Brussels placed against the EU visa liberalization process of Kosovo that depends and consists in the solution of border demarcation line between Montenegro and Kosovo, and the latter continue to be held hostage as a result of these policies; indeed there is no other explanation.
There are voices articulating that this kind of Europe is tied with the boundaries that separate civilizations (according to the theory of Samuel P. Huntington on the Clash of Civilizations) East – West. Eurocentrists, as supporters of the first version of Europe, are consequently receiving a growing support from powerful waves of popularity, but also from Russian Federation that is significantly different from the XX Century, but doesn’t hide its aspirations to be installed in the Balkans through its injected influence in Macedonia and Serbia.
About this issue, we ought to review the project of New Yugoslavia plus Albania, it is an awakening of unique associations, considered as such especially among those who are experts of the political history of South East Europe.
Such a project would seriously ruin the Balkans and especially the future of Albanian nation, as it will aim to establish unnatural alliances, connected to Turkey and directed towards Asia! While situated under the pressures of such a crystal clear aim, a new geopolitical realignment, Albanians on both nations, known to be leaning towards the West, will never give up from their centuries old westward leaning civilization aspirations, they will not give up only because of the Eurocentrists’ typical frustration, wrapped by racism, that are viewing South East Europe from several vilified angles as being part of the ancient Ottoman Empire.
On the contrary, these two nations, Albanians, will continue to insist to be part of a political project focused on Eurointegration – EU – and naturally become a member of Euroatlantic Family. Moreover, if the project of New Yugoslavia is successful, Albanian nation will be stuck at the cross roads of this nature, a scenario that would make them similar to the Jewish model in the Middle East, making the two Albanian countries as the equivalent of Israel in South East Europe.
New Yugoslavia – a miniature empire of Tito
At the end of World War II Yugoslavia was serving for Tito as the core of a union between Trieste, Istria, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania and Greece. This was the reason why Tito was supporting the Greek Partisans in its Civil War. For as long as Stalin was satisfied with the fact that his influence was stretched throughout South East Europe. J. B. Tito was not satisfied with this accomplishment. He was laying the grounds of a Balkanic Federation, that would be as big as Great Britain and France altogether.
But this Project would experience its first cracks from the place where it was even less expected. Specifically, from Moscow after the approval of the Resolution of Inform Bureau, in 1948, when Tito was expelled from the rest of Eastern Block.
Joseph Stalin had its legitimate doubts on Tito, while establishing the political seat of Balkanic Federation in Belgrade, Tito would impose a full hegemony to the other half of the Balkans. Stalin was afraid that Tito would exert his complete influence not only in Albania and Greece but also in Bulgaria, while creating this way a powerful communist block in South East Europe, away from Moscow’s close control.
The dreams of slavic nationalists for an all slavic union “from Trieste to Varna” was appearing to be fading away from its implementation. However, Stalin was aspiring to have only Satellite States in Eastern Europe, and not a second communist center in Europe, as it begun to take shape under the guidance of Tito and Dimitrov. The greatest schism within the Communist World was taking shape. Yugoslavia was gradually leaving the Soviet sphere of influence. At that time, it was unclear on what were the motives of such a schism that was taking place. Rumors had it that there was a clash between the “Great Russian Imperialism” and the “Yugoslav nationalism.” It appears that among these two concepts that are shaped by modern geopolitics, Brussels has chosen a concept that keeps Russia away from the Balkans, even by paying the price of promoting Serbian Hegemony in such a New Yugoslavia!
It appears that some European officials that are supporting this project, have learned little from the political history of Europe. How integration and disintegration has worked within Slavic nations of South East Europe during the XIX and XX Centuries; it is simply a matter that is directly connected to the lack of tolerance. The dissolution process of Tito’s Yugoslavia and the Serbian Genocides in Bosnia (1991-1995) and in Kosovo (1995-1999) are a perfect testimony of such a brutal attitude.
Albanian political doctrine as a defense shield
Tirana and Prishtina, should respond, in a coordinated fashion and unequivocally to the geostrategic regional projects of Belgrade that are sponsored by Russia and even France; where the terminology of Western Balkans took its inception in 2000. Tirana and Prishtina must embrace proactive actions to swiftly shape reforms that benefit both independent countries that are fully inhabited by ethnic Albanians.
Some of the steps that must be taken right away are the following:
- Elimination of customs, the creation of a common Albanian market;
- Full integration of education and health policies;
- Begin the use of Albanian currency (Lek), as a second currency in Kosovo;
- Draft a common and mutual defense strategy.
However, while containing new measures, and in full coordination among Tirana and Prishtina, the Albanian Political Parties in Macedonia must also get appropriately involved.
These are some of the urgent steps, that would naturally shape the Albanian Federation. For those familiar with Albanian Political environment, demands of this nature appear to be simply a futuristic political move, overall idealistic. Obviously for a reason, especially knowing the quality of a political network that is dominating Albania’s and Kosovo’s governing landscape. Nonetheless, the positive pressure of intellectual opinion and a stimulus coming from healthy political factors, would generate a series of proactive energies for this aspiration to be on the launching pad.
For as long as in Northern Albania (the territory above Drini River) the Secret Services of Serbia and Russia, while coordinated with their regional traditional allies, were successful to install their trusted puppets at the helm of Kosovo’s Government, meanwhile they were somewhat successful to hold hostage General Ramush Haradinaj in France, and also continue to orchestrate all sorts of disinformation campaigns against the Self Movement Party (Levizja VeteVendosja), a political force that is rightfully viewed as the sole hope in Prishtina, without leaving aside the subversive and the anti-constitutional actions against the sovereignty of Kosovo, in other parts of Albania, there are plans to organize a Coup Detat or return back to the dark days of 1997!
The ties of foreign secret service agencies, through a resistance of corrupt politicians and with the support of regional mafia, are fighting to hinder from implementation a strategic project destined to strengthen the rule of law and the state of law, that would go through the Rubicon of the so-called Vetting, and as a result Albania would have a true governing set of institutions. If there is a crowd of people gathered on any of Tirana’s blocks, at a tent or outside of a tent, it is gathering without principles, however, it is a legitimate right and moral obligation towards the fatherland, to mobilize even the so called idealists wherever they are.
Idealists that continue to be worried in their own right, are convinced that Albanian political environment needs the development of a new way of thinking, respectively for a political doctrine as a source of defensive and containment shield, to enable the knowledge of global political tendencies, while retaining these tactics to the benefit of national interest.
If Anglo-Saxons after WWII were focused to shape such a method of political thinking, while taking into consideration aspects and geostrategic interests, meanwhile the French aside from their focus towards ascertaining their space of influence, have cultivated, through social and political sciences, philosophical and ideological components, Albanians in order to shape up their Albanian Federation project and expand their influence in the region, need an approach that combines the two ways of thought mentioned above, while adding to this the military concept of reasoning. Such a concept of Albanian Federation would bring more weight and raise its leverage as presented in the eyes of Albania’s geostrategic allies, especially the United States.
In this case, instead of sending refugees and citizens who migrate for economic reasons to Albania’s geopolitical alliance (NATO) and Western European nations, because the current Government of Tirana has failed to bring a sustainable growth of its micro-economic levels, we would be giving them well equipped soldiers and generals.
At the present, Albanian Federation must be viewed, after the publication of the project of President Elect Aleksandar Vučić, as an urgent measure and as a viable option versus New Yugoslavia. Albanian Federation will and should be implemented by Albanians, united together with idealists, these are the final words of our founding fathers and the desire of those who will cherish Albanian lands in the upcoming centuries.
Translated from Albanian language: Peter M. Tase
Political Impacts of a Second Wave of Covid-19: Looking at Past Health Crises
Undoubtedly, a significant number of governmental reports, academic articles and op-eds about the Covid-19 and its likely future impacts in the world societies and economies have already been published. Though useful for planning, anyone attempting to establish prospective post-pandemic scenarios should – above all – be aware that this effort is filled with uncertainty as the repercussions of any contagious diseases are always dynamic. Namely, its reliance on constant evolving factors, is causing persistent shifts in its impacts principally for those of economic and political nature.
With this thought in mind, and as the doubts shrouding a possible second wave of this pandemic slowly erode, it seems important to look at historical instances of uncontrollable transmission of disease and to understand how deeply it can politically impact human societies, albeit contextualizing the obvious differences brought by time and different social and technological backgrounds. Still, having these aspects in consideration, it should be noted the common denominator that the current pandemic has with other historical health emergencies: the absence of medical countermeasures that can truly eliminate the disease.
In fact, the failure to produce an “effective, no side effects” Covid-19 vaccine so far, led Governments to implement quarantines, which from the Black Plague to the SARS epidemic, proved to be of the one of the few historically effective methods to slow the spread of disease. A report, published by the WHO in 2006, characterized the use of quarantines in the SARS 2003 epidemic to be “old fashioned and labour intensive” although effective as “these measures slowed the virus’ spread, and, in the end, contributed to its containment”. This lesson proves to be of particular importance in a time where the economic and social pressure to end lockdowns have succeeded in coercing Governments to ease the implemented containment measures, even if any positive outcomes of the latter are yet to be seen.
As stated by a report of the “Konrad Adenauer Center for International Relations and Security Studies” (KACIRSS) on the diseases’ impact on political stability, “a high level of virulent infectious diseases may even destabilize politically stable and economically strong countries, like European or North-American countries”, making relevant any effort of anticipating the reactions of the masses in the midst of a health emergency, so to contain any negative effects brought by it.
One of the most significant signs of political disruption caused by a pandemic event is the depletion of trust in elected leaders, as they seem unfit to tackle the challenges, which, if uncontained, may constitute as a prequel to a larger erosion of confidence in political institutions. This absence of trust leans on factors such as “high morbidity and mortality rates, a lack of medical knowledge and effective treatment options, and general unfamiliarity with the disease” that unchecked, could lead to higher “destabilizing effect of the disease as the population’s perceived (and real) risk increases.”
Case in point, as the plague in Athens, during the Peloponnesian War, took its toll on its population, historians reported a detrimental effect on Pericles leadership and other elements of the Athenian society, leading to anarchy and, ultimately, the end of its democracy. Similar conclusions could be drafted from the Black Plague, which had a significant impact on monarchical authority in Europe and other surrounding regions.
Taking these historical episodes into considerations, as we witnessed statements of political leaders downplaying the full impact of Covid-19, solely to later advocate – sometimes against scientific advice – a quick resumption of economic activity, it is important for these high dignitaries to remember that an unprepared society for a second wave will likely not be forgotten by its voters. Furthermore, this sort of impact should speak volumes for governments whose leaderships are near the end of their mandates or are based upon parliamentary coalitions that may no longer be viable within an unstable political context. Worse, in a time where social media and fake news are highly influential, this absence of political trust could be seen as an opportunity for populist political movements, as well as extremist groups, to gain momentum and harvest additional supporters for their causes. To this equation, we need to add profound financial repercussions that the Covid-19 pandemic is expected to have on international economies and, consequently, in the population’s discontentment, considering possible signs of lockdown fatigue if a return to status quo ante is required.
Consequently, a second Covid-19 wave, converged with an economic downturn, could carry another political effect, namely in terms of a State’s potential political regime change. Already mentioned examples of how the Athens plague undermined its democracy or how the Black Plague may have impacted feudalism in Europe need to serve as a testimony to democratic leaderships of how disease infested societies, if unchecked, may provoke/accelerate structural modifications in political regimes. Hopefully, recent decisions taken by a Central European government, still a formal democracy, may constitute only a temporary exception to the witnessed democratic progresses the world has seen during the past three decades.
Historical epidemic occurrences may also hold valuable lessons for the European Union (EU). Notwithstanding the obvious differences between the Catholic Church of the 14th century and the EU of today, both share the common denominator of being transnational entities with significant political influence on countries in Europe. Much has been written on the detrimental impact that the Black Plague had over the Catholic Church political influence in 14th century Europe, as the members of the clergy were unable to provide any answers to the needs of Europeans faced with rising casualties, causing a “decline in their confidence (…) of the institution of the Church”.
Less than seven centuries later, polls published by the European Parliament’s Public Opinion Monitoring Unit clearly state that “In Spain, 90% of respondents consider that the EU is helping “a little” or “not at all” to resolve the situation caused by pandemic” while “88% of Italians feel that the other EU countries are not helping Italy and 79% think the same of the EU institutions. Still, a relative majority (42,6%) do not want to leave neither the EU nor the Eurozone”. Given these numbers, it is becoming increasingly discernible that citizens of some Covid-19 hardly stricken countries questioned the EU’s lack of leadership or solidarity to support their Member-States when in dire situations. Doubts could also be raised on the possible political effects of a second Covid-19 wave on the EU – Member-States relationship, if health and financial consequences remain unaddressed.
But even though the real impact of this coronavirus crisis on the Italians’ opinion towards EU remains to be seen, the apologetic letter written by the President of the EU Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, in an attempt to justify the initial paralysis of the European institutions while staring at the Italy’s health system collapse, appears to be a good omen. Furthermore, the EU leaders approval of a recovery fund to mitigate the deep financial and economic impacts of the pandemic are also vital steps, especially if the approved measures are proportionally beneficial to the affected Member-States and particularly their citizens, as otherwise a hypothetical second Covid-19 wave may prove to be more than just another obstacle in the path to Europe’s unity.
Finally, considering the profound international impacts of Covid-19, it is difficult not to envisage on how terrorists might be inspired by the detrimental effects of disease on societies and how deadly pathogens could provide a significant boost for their propaganda necessities. Even though bioterrorism, and its contributing factors, has been substantially addressed by academia and official reports, it is still important to understand that several of the technical barriers preventing the terrorist use of pathogens have decreased over the last two decades, so new approaches are in dire need.
In 2015, I co-authored an article with Anne-Yolande Bilala that addressed the possible beneficial effects brought by the implementation of a “Bioterrorism Prevention Initiative” for the mitigation of this particular threat. Regardless of any merits embedded in this proposal, it would be of crucial importance if initiatives with similar desiderata could see the light of day in a post Covid-19 security context, so to decrease any risks of nonstate actors producing, acquiring and/or disseminating biological agents.
The above mentioned historical events may also provide important lessons, in terms of a future pandemic preparedness, for Governments to grasp, the most notable being that Biodefense needs to become a de facto priority, while adopting and investing in a more preventive posture towards biological menaces, so to anticipate emergencies of global and catastrophic nature. Case in point, regardless of the billions of Euros invested on healthcare every year, “global postures remain primarily response-driven and reactive to a dynamic and volatile emerging disease landscape. New epidemics are often met with an emergency response, after-action reviews and a promise to rethink prevention.”
Serving as an additional testimony on the absence of structural changes over the last years, it is also important to remember the already mentioned WHO post-SARS report that concludes that “communicable diseases had been given insufficient attention, with doctors more interested in high-tech fields such as neurosurgery and molecular biology. Awareness levels were low and infection-control procedures had become slack. In sum, public-health systems were simply not ready for what happened.” A preventive posture to avoid the same scenario would entail, for example, improved synergies between health and military research facilities, and a substantial increase of financial resources for the latter institutions as well for universities, research centers, and the private sector so to monitor and develop new solutions aiming to tackle emerging diseases.
Finally, the preventive posture could also result in the formalization of a dual-use for national industries. One of the most positive aspects emerging from this pandemic episode was the ability for some industries and services to adapt their assembly lines in order to produce ventilators, masks and other PPE production. Although very commendable, the majority of these decisions were ad hoc and solely based on goodwill. A future proactive/preventive approach, in which Biodefense is a strategic cornerstone, will likely require that local industries– either within a national or regional context – have a pre-designated role for future pandemic episodes.
This “dual-use” purpose would likely require that Governments leverage lessons learned from the current pandemic, in order to anticipate needs, and negotiate with local industries what their future roles could be in a posterior health crisis. Such negotiation would call for exceptional skills in terms of planning, besides constant updates, as some companies may go bankrupt or transfer their facilities to another country. Nonetheless using a long term perspective to define the blueprints for the role of the civil society in a pandemic scenario may prove to be a fruitful exercise, as, when necessary, societies will be better prepared for a next catastrophic biological event.
When looking back in History to find other examples of epidemics, one could argue that the dimension of human fatalities was much larger or that the available scientific know-how to deal with the latter did not give societies sufficient countermeasures to tackle the disease. Both present valid points, but more important than lethality rates is the threat perception of the affected populations, the de facto origin of political instability, which in an age where information instantly travels across the globe and when efficient medical countermeasures against Covid-19 are still lacking, tends to be even more palpable.
As political leadership in democracies has, over the years, become a little more than a voters’ expectations management exercise, political stability in a time of pandemics is likely to be more dependent on how fast governments implement mitigation measures coupled with communication transparency by leaderships and the fact-based science behind unpopular decisions, instead of finger pointing/social dividing speeches that, ultimately, will only lead to ghastlier public health scenarios and to a widespread of social turmoil.
The spirit of “Greater Albania” acquires Brussels substance
A meeting of Serbian and Kosovo leaders which is scheduled to take place in Brussels in September may result in the signing of an agreement on the normalization of relations. According to reports, the EU leaders, who act as mediators in the Belgrade – Pristina dialogue, have prepared a draft agreement. Serbian and Brussels sources say the draft provides for recognition of the self-proclaimed independence of Kosovo by Belgrade in exchange for Serbia’s membership in the EU.
However, even if Belgrade chooses to sign the above-mentioned agreement, – such a step will do nothing to secure normalization in the Balkans. On the contrary, it could open a new chapter in the political and administrative “reformating” of the region. What comes as a key factor here is activization on the part of Albania, which is using the Belgrade-Pristina deal for its own purposes, and these purposes are infinitely far from what the leading European capitals count on. It would hardly be an exaggeration to say that a full-blown international and legal recognition of Kosovo’s independence (which is supposed to result from the agreement prepared in Brussels on the normalization of bilateral relations between Belgrade and Pristina) will become a prologue to more active efforts on the part of Albanian radicals to establish “Greater Albania”, which would incorporate Albania proper, most of Kosovo, Presevo Valley, parts of Macedonia, Montenegro, and, possibly, Greece, with a total population of up to 10 million.
Statements in support of creating such a state have come recently from many high-profile political and public figures in Kosovo, who maintain close ties with the Albanian community abroad and with influential American and European politicians. One of them is Azem Vlasi, who headed the regional branch of the Union of Communists of Kosovo and was a member of the Central Committee of the Union of Communists of Yugoslavia in the 1980s. He doubts that the recent talks in Brussels on the division of Kosovo will produce an agreement. In his opinion, the authorities in Pristina are not prepared to give up control of the entire territory of the region. Besides, it’s Kosovo that could become a center of the “collection” of Albanian lands in the Balkans.
The main guidelines to methodologically justify the program of creating “Greater Albania” were presented in the 1990s, by one of the most outstanding of Albanian intellectuals, Recep Chosja, who pointed out that «Albania has never accepted its present borders, always trying to remind international circles that its present borders are unfair, as they divide Albanian territory into two parts. These borders run across the very heart of Albanian people».
The official position of neighboring Albania, which is same nationality with Kosovo, is the acknowledgment of inviolability of the existing borders. In 1992 the head of government from the Democratic Party of Albania Sali Berisha said in an interview that «the idea of creating “Greater Albania” is alien to Albanian ruling circles and political forces».
Nevertheless, in May 2011, member of the Presidium of the Democratic Party of Albania, Azgan Khaklai, openly demanded that all Albanian territories should be united to form one state, while the incumbent head of government Edi Rama has been indicating that unification of Albania and Kosovo is Tirana’s Plan A and should be regarded as such in connection with the agreement between Pristina and Belgrade.
Public opinion polls conducted among the Albanian population of the Balkan countries suggest that the program of creating “Greater Albania” has been acquiring ever more popularity among the Albanian population of the Balkan countries. The idea of making Albania’s borders “ethnic” has already won the support of more than 80% of the population of Kosovo, over 70% of residents of Albania, and of more than a half of Macedonian Albanians. About one half of respondents in Kosovo and 40% in Albania believe that Greater Albania with its widest ethnically conditioned borders will come into being in the near future.
Meanwhile, at the end of 2006 a similar study conducted by experts of the UN Development Program found that only 2,5% of Kosovo Albanians considered unification with Albania the best solution, whereas 96% wanted Kosovo to become independent within the existing borders.
Such a situation may force leading world powers and international institutes to reconsider their recent policies, which focused on a state rather than on a territory and which envisaged that each Balkan country should search for a solution of its problems by itself. «A territory-focused policy regards the Balkan region not as a community of established countries, but as a system of territories that stay in dynamic balance and are thus capable of reformatting. «A carve-up of regional borders on the ethno-linguistic and religious principles may acquire fresh impetus in the course of current talks between Belgrade and Pristina. Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic has expressed readiness to recognize Kosovo in exchange for territorial concessions, while his counterpart Hashim Thaci hopes to invite to his country Serbian Albanians», – points out Le Monde diplomatique, emphasizing the situation in Presevo Valley, which borders on Kosovo.
Another potentially explosive “hot spot” covers three South Serbian communities (Bujanovac, Medveja and Presevo). According to the last census conducted in Serbia, about 90, 000 people live on the territories of these three communities. The ratio of Serbs and Albanians is as follows: in Presevo – 89% Albanians and 9% Serbs, in Bujanovac – 55% Albanians and 34% Serbs, in Medveja – 26% Albanians and 67% Serbs.
Chairman of Presevo community and leader of the Democratic Party of Albanians in Serbia Ragmi Mustafa has spoken in favor of “exchange of territories” between Belgrade and Pristina, underscoring that all three communities “should join Kosovo” while “northern Kosovo should join Serbia”. In his words, the relevant proposal should be presented at the Brussels talks: «I think that this is the future of our region».
According to leaders of Presevo Albanians, the international community should make the Serbian government “refrain from impeding the expression of the freewill on the part of the population of the Presevo Valley».
Such a position echoes the program of the radical Kosovo movement “Self-Determination”, headed by former Prime Minister Albin Kurti. Kurti believes that Kosovo and Albania “should coordinate their actions and simultaneously streamline their legislation with a view to prepare for two referendums, in Albania and Kosovo, on the outcome of which Kosovo will unite with Albania”. “I think that this meets the interests of our people in the economic sphere and in the sphere of security”, – Albin Kurti points out, saying that after the referendum the time will come to “solve pan-Albanian issues, in the first place, in Macedonia, Eastern Kosovo [Presevo Valley], Montenegro and Greece”. In the opinion of the “Self-Determination” leader, Kosovo authorities ought to hold talks not with Belgrade, about the division, but with Tirana, about the unification.
Given the situation, there are grounds to expect activization of efforts on the part of both Kosovo authorities and Albanian leaders in other Balkan countries and territories with a view to build up their military and political might. In fact, this process is already taking place. Deputy Director of the Information and Press Department of the Russian Foreign Ministry Aleksei Zaitsev has made a statement to this effect drawing public attention to the fact that the United States has begun to supply Pristina with military hardware. According to the diplomat, the US is thus openly undermining international efforts oriented at ensuring peace and stability in the Balkans.
Pristina has also stepped up efforts to establish military cooperation with Germany. All this testifies to the escalation of conflict in the Balkan Region amid the ongoing activization of the “Albanian factor”.
From our partner International Affairs
Legacy of antifascism for the common pan-European future
The post WWII architecture is a strong and decisive reaction to the Great Depression, the rise of fascism, the horrors of WWII and the Holocaust. The United Nations, created in San Francisco on 26 June 1945, are built on three main pillars: Freedom from fear and violence, freedom from want and poverty, human rights and respect for human dignity. For the first time in human history, war has been prohibited in international law with only minor exceptions, namely the right of States to self-defence and the collective security system under the guidance of the UN Security Council. For the first time in human history, the promotion and protection of human rights were acknowledged as a legitimate goal of the international community and international law. For the first time in human history, the main perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity had been brought to justice before international military tribunals in Nuremberg and Tokyo. And for the first time in human history, economic and social development, prosperity and the eradication of poverty have been defined as goals of a new world order. These ambitious aims and objectives were only possible thanks to the antifascist consensus among the allies, which at that time seemed to be even stronger than the differences between capitalism and communism. When the UN Human Rights Commission, the predecessor of the current Human Rights Council, drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights between 1946 and 1948, this antifascist consensus was still strong enough to achieve a synthesis between the Western and the Socialist concepts of human rights. The Universal Declaration, solemnly adopted in Paris on 10 December 1948, contains civil and political rights together with economic, social and cultural rights and with the vision of a new “social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized” (Article 28).
As soon as the Human Rights Commission started to transfer this historic compromise between liberal freedoms and social security into a legally binding universal convention on human rights, the United States and its allies in 1951 forced a decision in the UN General Assembly to split human rights again into two categories, which dominated the ideological debates during the time of the Cold War. The International Bill of Rights, which was finally adopted after long negotiations in 1966, was divided into the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, favoured by the West, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, favoured by the Soviet Union and its allies. Civil and political rights and freedoms were conceived as immediately binding State obligations to respect and ensure the rights to life, personal liberty, privacy, security and integrity, freedom of expression, religion, assembly and association and the right to participate in democratic decision making processes. Economic, social and cultural rights to work, fair, equal and healthy working conditions, social security, the rights to food, housing, health, education and an adequate standard of living, on the other hand, were conceived as mere “programme rights” to be achieved step by step through progressive implementation.
As WWII had started as a European war between fascist and democratic States, Europe felt a particular responsibility to prevent another war and catastrophe like the Holocaust through economic and political cooperation and the protection of human rights. While the European Communities of the 1950s aimed at preventing another war through economic integration, the Council of Europe was established already in 1949 as a political organization based upon human rights, pluralistic democracy and the rule of law. The Council of Europe was a Western European organization, which defended these “European values” against any form of totalitarianism, whether fascism (as practiced at that time in Spain and Portugal) or communism (as practiced in a growing number of Central and Eastern European States).By adopting the European Convention on Human Rights(ECHR) in 1950, which only contained civil and political rights, the Council of Europe left no doubt that it was a Western organization, which did not feel bound by the indivisibility and interdependence of all human rights, as expressed in the Universal Declaration. Economic, social and cultural rights played and unfortunately still play in the Council of Europe a subordinate role. The European Convention with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, which decides in a legally binding manner on tens of thousands of individual applications per year, is the light-tower of human rights protection in Europe, while the European Social Charter of 1961 and its monitoring system is much weaker and very little known to the public. Nevertheless, this is the time when the social welfare state, based on the economic policies of John Maynard Keynes, was developed in Western Europe, North America and other industrialized nations. The architects of the social welfare state or a market economy with a human face were, however, not even aware that they were implementing economic, social and cultural rights, as these rights were primarily associated with the Soviet Union and its allies.
During the Cold War, human rights were the subject of fierce ideological battles between Western and Communist States, and to a lesser degree, the newly independent States of the Global South. Nevertheless, this was the time when human rights were codified at the universal and regional level. In addition of the two Covenants of 1966, the United Nations adopted a number of universal human rights treaties, such as the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination of 1965, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women of 1979, the Convention against Torture of 1984 or the Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1989. These core human rights treaties are today almost universally ratified. On the regional level, the two most important treaties, which were largely based on the European Convention, are the American Convention on Human Rights of 1969 and the African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights of 1981.
With the implosion of the Communist regimes in Central and Eastern Europe and the velvet revolutions of 1989, which quickly led to the fall of the iron curtain and the end of the Cold War, a historic window of opportunity opened for a new world order based upon human rights, democracy and the rule of law. The 1993 Vienna World Conference on Human Rights and the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action promised a new era, based upon the equality, universality, indivisibility and interdependence of all human rights, spear-headed by the newly created Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. For the first time, the collective security system of the UN Charter was applied in practice and led to new generations of peace-building missions with human rights components and peace-enforcement actions, which also tackled some of the worst human rights violations. Two ad-hoc international criminal tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda were established by the UN Security Council as the first ones after the Nuremberg and Tokyo military tribunals and led to the creation of a permanent International Criminal Court in 1998. In the same year, the 11th Additional Protocol to the ECHR entered into force and transformed the European Court of Human Rights into a full-time court which since then has delivered thousands of judgments every year, most of them in relation to the newly admitted former Communist States in Central and Eastern Europe. In 2000, the EU adopted a Charter on Fundamental Rights, and the United Nations adopted Millennium Development Goals, which promised a better future, above all for the poor and marginalized communities in the Global South. Despite the genocides in Rwanda and Bosnia and Herzegovina, which happened before the eyes of UN peacekeepers, one can conclude that never before were human rights advanced in such a quick, innovative and forceful manner than during the 1990s.
Let’s go back to 1989, which was a truly remarkable year in human history. In addition to the velvet revolutions, the world wide web was created, and with the “Washington Consensus”, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund agreed to adopt the neoliberal economic policies of privatization, deregulation and minimizing the role of the State, which had been advocated for many years by the Chicago School of Economics, thereby replacing the more interventionist economic policies of John Maynard Keynes. This meant that the rapid digitalization and globalization of our world were driven by neoliberal economic and financial policies. As a consequence, the historic opportunity of implementing a new world order inspired by universal human rights, democracy and the rule of law wassoon replaced by a new world order driven by transnational corporations and global financial markets. On the one hand, these policies led to an unprecedented economic growth and global digitalization, which contributed to more prosperity and a significant reduction of poverty, above all in China, India and other Asian States. On the other hand, these policies led to a dramatic increase of economic inequality, which is undermining the social coherence and democratic values of our societies. Radical policies of privatization, which had started already in the US and the UK during the 1980s, include even core State functions, such as the military, intelligence, police, justice and prisons (rise of private military and security companies), as well as providing social security, pensions, health care and education. The policy of minimizing the role of the State, which is often imposed on governments by the international financial institutions, result in drastic reductions in social security and social welfare and undermine the obligation of States to protect and fulfil economic, social and cultural rights, but also civil and political rights. In this context, we observe the rising phenomenon of failed and fragile states, which lead to insecurity, armed conflicts, the rise of organized crime and terrorism. Finally, the deregulation of global financial markets led to unprecedented speculations, tax evasion, money laundering, corruption and the undermining of the banking system, which directly resulted in the global financial and economic crisis of 2008. There can also be no doubt that the neoliberal economic policies contributed significantly to the current climate crisis, the ruthless exploitation of nature, deforestation and the destruction of our environment. The slim neoliberal state has no longer the power and the political will to regulate and control transnational corporations and global financial markets, and international organizations, such as the United Nations, the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization or the European Union, which would have the power by concerted efforts to regain political control over global markets, are either at the forefront of neoliberal economic policies themselves or are increasingly undermined by nationalistic and populistic politicians. The Brexit, attacks by the Russian Federation against the Council of Europe, the sidelining of the United Nations in relation to the armed conflicts in Syria, Libya and other regions, and open attacks by the United States against the United Nations, its specialized agencies, such as the World Health Organization, or against the International Criminal Court are only a few symptoms of the current crisis of multilateralism.
The world was in disarray when the Corona virus appeared on the global agenda at the beginning of a new decade, and when the COVID-19 pandemic led to an unprecedented lockdown of the global economy, a fundamental restructuring of our daily life and drastic restrictions of our most cherished human rights. Our world was certainly not well prepared to deal with this pandemic, which has caused already more deaths worldwide than the tsunami as the worst disaster of the 21st century. The most neoliberal States, such as the US, the UK and Brazil, which happen to be governed by politicians, who are used to “solve” crisis situations by spreading fake news and searching for scapegoats, seem to be hit most severely. In Europe, States which had cut down their public health and social security systems most radically, such as the UK, Italy and Spain, encountered much more serious problems to contain the spread of the virus than States, where the public health and social security systems had somehow survived neoliberal policies. Even politicians, who for many years had preached that free markets are much better equipped to solve problems than governments, realized that we need strong and well-functioning States to take the necessary measures and that we should listen to experts rather than populists, fake news and social media in order to cope effectively with this pandemic. It is too early to draw far-reaching conclusions since we are still in the middle of this health crisis and do not know how the coming months will develop. Nevertheless, there is a growing awareness among the people, irrespective of their political opinions and political party alliances, that there is something fundamentally wrong with the way how we are living and that we need to drastically change our economic, political and social world order if we wish to ensure the survival of our planet and a healthy and satisfactory life for our children and future generations.
Where does this leave us with respect to the topic of this conference? What can we learn from this short historical overview for a pan-European future, built upon antifascism as a European confidence building block, mutual trust and good neighbourly relations? One conclusion is obvious: In order to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and other global challenges, such as the global climate crisis, growing economic inequality or global migration, we need to strengthen, rather than weaken, the regulatory functions of States and of international organizations, both at the global and regional (European) level. Secondly, we need to replace the neoliberal economic politics by a new and more social market economy “with a human face”, which is more responsible towards nature, towards economic equality and solidarity with the poor and marginalized sectors of our societies, at the national, regional (European) and global level. This also means that politics need to regain its power to control and regulate the economy, as has been well illustrated during the COVID-19 pandemic. We need to use this new confidence in a responsible regulatory power of politics to also tackle other global threats, such as the climate crisis. At the same time, we need to strengthen the EU by transferring certain powers in the field of social justice, public health, environmental protection, asylum and migration policies from the member States to the EU institutions. The EU, which, despite the Brexit, is still a major global economic and political player, shall further be entrusted by its member States to pursue and strengthen these socially and ecologically sustainable politics also at the global level, above all in the international financial institutions and the WTO.
With respect to the Council of Europe, which is a truly pan-European organization with currently 47 member States and a pioneer in international human rights protection, we need to introduce economic, social and cultural rights on an equal level with civil and political rights and try to overcome the deep distrust between the Russian Federation and Western European States. This requires confidence-building from both sides. The Council of Europe, as a Western European organization, had quickly opened its doors after 1989 and invited the former Communist States to join. Many States used the Council of Europe as an entry door for quick EU and/or NATO membership, which was not always properly coordinated with Moscow and led even to armed conflicts in Georgia and the Ukraine. Many “frozen conflicts” in Europe, such as Nagorno Karabakh, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Tansnistria, Eastern Ukraine, Kosovo and the Republika Srpska, can only be solved if the Russian Federation is again better integrated into European politics. The Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), provide the necessary diplomatic platforms, but the political will for mutual confidence-building is still lacking. Antifascism is no longer a meaningful basis for a pan-European confidence block, and in fact it had played this role only for a few years immediately after WWII. If the Council of Europe, with the active support of the EU, would be able to build a pan-European social welfare system, which is based on the indivisibility of all human rights rather than on neoliberal economic policies, then it would resume its pioneering role as a political organization that is uniting Europe on the basis of common European values.
(Exclusive speech for the Conference at the DAW, Vienna, 1 July 2020)
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