UNIVERZA V LJUBLJANI

FAKULTETA ZA DRUŽBENE VEDE

Martinič Sandra
21080320

asist. mag. Rok Zupančič

NEURALGIC HOTSPOTS AS AN OBSTACLE TO REGIONAL
STABILITY?
THE CASE OF NORTHERN KOSOVO

Research paper

Security in South Eastern Europe

Ljubljana, 10. may 2013

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1. Introduction
The collapse of Yugoslavia in 1991 and 1992 meant a start to five new states: Slovenia,
Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro with later secession of
Montenegro in 2006 and Kosovo in 2008. The region is now unstable for couple of decades
and the secession of Kosovo just fueled the intolerance among the nations. Kosovo became a
distribution between two ethnic groups: Serbians and Albanians. The northern Kosovo is that
much more important because it’s populated with the majority of Kosovo Serbs and with
Serbian refusal to international recognition of Kosovo, the Serbian authorities are tempted to
start demanding to see Northern Kosovo as part of the Serbia. The situation is escalading
because both sides, Belgrade and Pristina, wants a sovereign claim over Kosovo and Pristina
doesn’t control the northern part of the country. Further more Kosovo Serbs are protesting
with violence to the unilateral declaration of independence by not recognizing the authority of
the Republic of Kosovo.
One of the hotspots is Kosovska Mitrovica with Serbs and Albanian populated area. I’s an
important area, because it represents a main point of tension between Serbs and Albanian,
who are separated by the river Ibar, which runs through the city. My research questions are
tied to this area, as I will represents a possible scenario for partition of Kosovo along the river
Ibar. The second scenario is integration of the northern region into Kosovo on the formula set
out in the Ahtisaari plan. The research is mostly composed of collecting data from various
primary and secondary sources, and their analysis and interpretation. I want to have a variety
of information from different sources to drawn an objective conclusion.
My research paper consists of four parts: introduction, theoretical overview, analysis and
conclusion. Firstly, in my theoretical overview I’m going to represent the theory of secession.
Secondly, in my analysis I’m going to write about historical overview, the problem with
different nationalities and countries involved in the conflict (their interests), involvement of
international organizations, why it’s a problem for regional security and a presentation of my
two scenarios. For conclusion, I’m going to do an overview of my research, state the
consequences posed by the further development of the conflict and the impact of both
scenarios on regional stability and security.

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2. Theoretical overview
To understand the topic of my research paper, the need of a base is in theory of secession or in
the right to secede or in legal language “coordinated independence”.
2.1.

Theory of secession

The theory itself explains, not new political association, but a “taking of a
part of the territory claimed by an existing state”. Secession is divided into
three groups: 1. a moral right to secede and its conditions; 2. Compatibility
or incompatibility of secession with constitutionalism and; 3. the position
of international law (SEP 2013a). The theory didn’t appear until the
collapses of Yugoslavia, Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia, the legitimacy
was usual based on consent of the people, morality and obtaining the
goals (Boykin 1998). Some authors, ex. Christopher Heath Wellman, go so
far to claim that “/…/ any group has a moral right to secede as long as its
political divorce will leave it and the remainder state in a position to
perform the requisite political functions” (Morris 2007). But there is always
a very connected relationship between the moral right to unilateral
secession and the position of international law. The concerns of moral
aspect are a unilateral secession and its justification or the moral right to
secede unilaterally that is with consent of the state ad without
constitutional sanction. The question emerged under what conditions there
is a moral claim to secede and under what conditions a constitution ought
to include a right to secede (SEP 2013b). As secession under international
law, a very few circumstances allow the unilateral right to secede, namely,
when a group is subject to colonial domination. The idea of serious and
persistent injustices can allow the right to unilateral secession – “/…/when
a metropolitan power dominates a racially and/or ethnically distinct group/
…/” (SEP 2013c).
In the case of Kosovo the theory of secession is important because there is still a question if
Kosovo’s declaration of independence is legal under international law. For understanding this
question you need explore the country history from the battle of Kosovo Polje to Security
Council Resolution 1244, because even if the remedial secession represents the core of legal

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precedent debate there is a need of socio-political and historic events overview to understand
the legal implications. And even if all the elements were met of remedial secession it’s argued
that it's still a legally insignificant act. The factual elements of remedial secession are: the
Milošević regime carried out a policy of systematic discrimination followed by the
perpetration of massive and grave abuses against the Kosovo Albanians; the Kosovo
Albanians are a cultural group within Serbia and; impossible agreeable outcome through
peaceful settlement (Cismas 2010, 582).
The problem with Serbia occurs because the independence was without the consent of the
Serbian government and with the unwillingness to recognize the independence of Kosovo it
will never reach consent. What is more, international law accommodates the right of an entity
to secede, when the state is acknowledges in its domestic law or the recognition of its peoples
right to self-determination. In the case of Kosovo, it was an autonomous province, without the
right to self-determination. Such remedial secession was an only legal option, even with the
dispute on the lack of practice (Cismas 2010, 581−2). It is one of the most controversial legal
and political aspects and its view as a last solution, where a ‘nation’ is denied internal selfdetermination or where a regime is violating the nation’s human rights. The biggest problem
with this actions is that remedial secession is lacking when we considerate international or
regional peace and security. A secession is never, in theory or in practice, an entitlement, not
even in a case of severe oppression an in legal terms is rather weak (Maeester 2012, strani).

3. Analysis
3.1.

Historical overview

To understand emerge of regional instability and the role of Kosovo with its secession, it’s
important to explore the history of latter. Every deed and conflict can be explain from its past,
if you dig deep enough.
When we are starting looking for reasons of conflict it’s always a tradition to start with the
battle of Kosovo Polje in 1389 when the Serbs were defeated by the Ottoman Empire. Later in
the First Balkan War in 1912 Serbia took control of Kosovo and a year later Serbia provided
the justification for their rule over Kosovo to the Great Powers:
/T/he moral right of a more civilized people; the historic right to an area which
contained the Patriarchate buildings of the Serbian Orthodox Church and had once been
part of the medieval Serbian empire; and a kind of ethnographic right based on the fact

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that at some time in the past Kosovo had had a majority of Serb population, a right
which /…/ was unaffected by the “recent invasion” of Albanians (Cismas 2010b, 555).
The Serbian argument was that Kosovo is as Jerusalem of Serbian Orthodoxy, an exaggeration
from their point of view. Moreover, the seat was not founded in Kosovo, but moved by the
Serbian rule after the initial foundation was burn down in Serbia. But by that year, half of
Kosovo's population was Albanian. And it continued to rise through the 20 th century (Crisis
Group 2013a). The ethnographic factor is one of the most controversial issues in the region.
There are accounts that Albanians were a majority even during the medieval Serbian Empire,
while so claim that there were no Albanians until the 17 th century. The evidence supports the
latter with the migration flow from Albania. With Kosovo under the rule of Serbia, the
Kosovo Albanians saw the event as colonization consequently, reinforced their ideal of a
Greater Albania. From that time on, ethnicity has become an important factor in regional
stability (Cismas 2010c, 555−7).
In 1974 Kosovo was granted autonomy and status of a federal unit, but still under Serbian
republic. Even with the majority Albanians being emancipated, the pressure of economic
downfall leaded to riots by Albanian students in 1981, demanding that Kosovo's status be
upgraded to republic. The consequences were a stronger security over the province,
imprisoning for alleged subversion. In the nineties, when Slobodan Milošević took over the
leadership, he reinforced the heavy security forces and revoked the province’s autonomy. As a
precaution Albanians were expelled from state institutions. Kosovo responded by selfdeclaring a Kosovo republic in 1992, electing the first president Ibrahim Rugova. During that
year EU recognize the former republics of Yugoslavia its right of self-determination,
meanwhile Kosovo and Vojvodina were take out from its right. The same happened for
Kosovo in 1995 in Dayton talks, when Bosnia-Herzegovina decreed a settlement. By 1998 the
security problem were escalading when attacks by Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) brought
heavy retaliation from Serbians (Crisis Group 2013b).
3.1.1. Resolution 1244
The United Nations (UN) Security Council (SC) Resolution 1244 adopted in 1999 came after
resolutions 1160, 1199, 1203 and 1239 it became a means to a political solution to an end to
violence with authorization international civil and military presence. The general principles
are:
/…/an immediate and verifiable end to violence and repression in Kosovo; the
withdrawal of the military, police and paramilitary forces of the Federal Republic;

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deployment of effective international civil and security presences, with substantial
North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) participation in the security presence;
establishment of an interim administration; the safe and free return of all refugees; a
political process providing for substantial self-government, as well as the
demilitarization of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA); and a comprehensive approach
to the economic development of the crisis region (United Nations 1999a).
The significance of this resolution is for both included parties. For the Serbians the articles of
the 1244 resolution indicate the possibility for Kosovo return to the autonomous status pre1990. As we known Serbia lost control of Kosovo in 1999 due to NATO bombing campaign,
which ended a war between Serbia and Kosovo Albanians and a UN administration was
establish. That’s how Kosovo Force (KFOR) was admitted into Kosovo and Serbian forces
withdraw their army. UN administration oversaw Kosovo’s institutions of self-government
(Taner and Stevenson 2010). From Kosovo point of view it’s important to note that the
declaration of independence didn’t violate the international law or the SC resolution 1244 and
in spite of everything made it legal.
During the UN administrated country, they wanted to establish the measure of stability
successful rebuild the multi-ethnic society (IOM 2012). As we can se some areas, Northern
Kosovo, still represents an obstacle to regional stability.

3.2.

Northern Kosovo

Northern Kosovo is perceived as an area between the Serb and Kosovo Albanians. The
problem is that Serb are calling the act of independence as illegal and are refusing to
acknowledge the rule of Kosovo’s government. Even if the people in Serbia are aware that
Kosovo is sovereign state under international law, the streets are still swamp with small
radical groups who bring instability and no sense of security to the area and consequently to
the region. That’s way the people of Northern Kosovo feel abandoned and furious, some from
Serbia other from Kosovo or Albania. The issue is not isolated problem on the ground of
Kosovo and Serbia. Without a solution the security in the region stand on uneven grounds and
others autonomies can arise in Serbia or in other parts of the region. The consequences are
endless; Serbia can start demand Northern Kosovo as a part of Serbia, destabilizing Bosnia
and Herzegovina or support bigger friction in Montenegro between Serbs and Montenegrins
(LSE 2011). Today Northern Kosovo became a bargaining tool for the EU membership. With

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the leadership to surrender north Kosovo to Pristina control the situation didn't change a lot
from the 2009. But with the shift of control, the northern Kosovo Serbs are in danger of a fate
similar of the eastern Croatian Serbs. Even the efforts, by NATO and EULEX and their
attempts to force the northemers to accept the control of Pristina, have failed. The danger of
further attempts to establish “authority” is likely to manifest in violence (Gallucci 2013).
The problem is occurring because nor Serbs or Albanian have a strategic plan to solve the
dispute over the return of Albanians to the north. Both sides want to “bully” the other into
accepting they domination (Galluci 2012). Meanwhile the international organizations are
trying to help with their many missions in Kosovo (KFOR, EULEX) but in the end they are
not succeeding to stop the violence, but in truth they are helping it to spread. They are
supported as a part of the effort to change the ethnic balance north of Ibar.
The violence between ethnic groups is escalading. In February this year, when a married
couple, a Kosovo Serb and an ethnic Albanian, were target of a bombing in Mitrovica. The
explosive was thrown on top of an ethnic Albanian house, but fortunately none of them was
hurt (Dispatch 2013). Or in 2012 when during a gunfight three Serbs and a NATO soldier
were wounded. Violence flared after attempting to dismantle Serb roadblocks, near Zvečan.
NATO troops were engage in a fight using tear gas, after their vehicles were pelted with
stones, and with rubber bullets. Kosovo Serbs return the fire with their handguns. Roadblocks
were an effort to stop Kosovar and EU authorities taking control of the border with Serbia
(euronews 2012). The idea of “frozen conflict” and EU’s rigid position it’s not wise. The
situation can go either way and in the end the EU member states would be responsible for
handling any crisis that does erupt. The threat of German chancellor Merkel of stopping the
EU accession negotiations is maybe enough for Belgrade and Pristina, but not enough for
northerens. The situation is beyond the control of the authorities of Kosovo with economic
disaster and violence is closely infused with lives in Belgrade and Pristina.
SC Resolution 1244 and the ongoing Kosovo imbroglio became an obstacle to create stability.
It’s important to mention that recognition of Kosovo’s independence is in violation of 1244
and the intent of UN SC. As a result, the United States of America (USA) contradicted its own
support of its recognition. What is more, 1244 doesn’t support the so-called “parallel
institutions” in northern Kosovo (Meyer 2013).
Last month was a historic moment for the Belgrade and Pristina dialogue when they agreed to
end the war of words and power. It was also the ultimatum from the EU of its decision on the
process of Serbia’s accession, for dismantle the parallel structures in northern Kosovo. The
agreement came after several people lost their lives the signature brings less weight for both

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parties and to the EU (Gros-Verheyde 2013a). The agreement stimulates that Belgrade doesn’t
recognize Kosovo as a state in its own right; he accepts his legal authority over its entire
territory, including the northern part of Kosovo. In exchange, Kosovo concedes a degree of
decentralization and autonomy to the Serbs Community in northern Kosovo, with the
responsibility for the socio-economic issues such as economic development, education, health
and urban planning (Prifti 2013). But the Kosovo Serbs still remained a thorn in the sided for
both parties involve because after the agreement they gathered in north Mitrovica to protest
against the approval of normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina. The motto
of 20.000 people was: “Northern Kosovo will forever be a part of Serbia”. The protester were
waving Serbian flags and banners with inscriptions as, “We do not surrender”, “No to the laws
and the Constitution of Kosovo” and “No to the Brussels agreement”. With the Brussels
Agreement, Belgrade “indirectly recognizes Kosovo” what brought a sense of betrayal for
Kosovo Serbs. They reject the ways of Pristina and Belgrade and support the third way, even
with the risk that will accompany the autonomy of northern Kosovo (Le Courrier des Balkans
2013).
3.3.

Research questions

In this section I’m going to represents the two possible scenarios for the northern region and
its consequences. Even with the agreement between Pristina and Belgrade there is still a
possibility of partition or integration scenario. There isn’t going to be a solution which pleases
all, but it’s important to remove the obstacle to regional stability or the hotspots for further
escalading problem of violence in other parts of the Balkan countries.
3.3.1. Partition scenario – Partition Kosovo along the River Ibar
It’s defined as a new international border drawn along the River Ibar and where the northern
region, where Serbs predominate, come under the Republic of Serbia and the Albanian south,
Mitrovica, stay as a part of Kosovo. This will create two separate political units. It’s not a new
plan, it was reconsidered in 1999 and which was backed by the Russians after the bombing.
In 2005 the European Council stated that they don’t support the partition of Kosovo and their
union with another country, even a part of it. The idea is that a separation between Serbs and
Albanians enable two states to function, with unlikely that the one of the criteria being ever
fulfilled. Firstly, the mutual desire to separate. Kosovo Serbs are expressing their desire to be

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part of Serbia; meanwhile the Kosovo Albanians express disappointment of the town being
separated but with no desire for reconciliation. Secondly, the criteria of no larger ethnic
minority being affected within the relevant region support the proposal of partition. The
population figures shows 95% of area is populated by Serbs. The problem appears with the
occurrence o new international border and its high cost effect on economic development: cost
of access is higher: tax revenues by border custom regimes; north Serbs lose 2 million
customers in Kosovo; the nearest market becomes a 90 minute journey away. In one way,
partition would bring a functioning state with less regional instability but in other way, in will
affect the economic development with the reducing of human, natural and physical capital to
the citizens (Jackson 2013a, 14−6).
3.3.2. Integration scenario – Integrate the northern region into Kosovo based on the
formula set out in the Ahtisaari plan.
This scenario predicts a dissolvent of all administrative and political links to Serbia with the
north Serbian population re-oriented to Pristina. Integration in Ahtisaari plan involves
distribution of power based on two elements: 1. “/…/it affords substantial political autonomy
to the Serbs north of the Ibar/…/” and; 2. “/…/it involves some degree of local power sharing
as the north and south Mitrovica municipalities will resolve city wide issues through an
international mediated ‘Joint Board’” (Jackson 2013b, 20). Ahtisaari plan would ensure the
aim of sharing autonomy and ensure that minorities “/r/emain in a common state based on the
idea of ethnic pluralism as well as making the minorities less apprehensive about their future
in a majority, dominated state”. It allows them to secure their basic human rights without
forced assimilation. Ahtisaari plan provides minority rights for Kosovo Serbs in a way that is
more efficient from the EU standards. It’s possible to allow a connection between the political
future of the northern Serb to Serbia, but at the same time to Kosovo constitution. With
normalization of the state micro economic governance will improve and the market access
will expand now closed by the ethnic separation. Multi ethnic Mitrovica can achieve a
competitive market between Serbs and Albanians. A similar case of ethnic integration has
previously worked in Brćko in Bosnia (Jackson 2013c, 20−1).

4. Conclusion
To sum up my research paper on northern Kosovo, it’s obvious that even with the new
Brussels agreement the situation is not improving. In my opinion the EU, Serbia and Kosovo

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are forgetting that a sign agreement on paper is not the same as an agreement of the people
involved, the Kosovo Serbs and Kosovo Albanians. In my historic overview we saw the
speculation and evidence that the independence is not really according to international law or
to the resolution 1244. International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled only that Kosovo’s
declaration of independence is not in violation of international law, but the questions of
Kosovo’s as an independent state or legality of their secession was not addressed.
Additionally, during my theoretical overview of secession it was mention that the theory of
secession represents one of the most controversial legal aspects with no regard to regional
stability. Even with the ICJ ruling Kosovo as an autonomous province was without the right to
self-determination.
Every little detail brought me to my research question, partition or integration. When we look
at the whole picture we can see that both scenarios have solid base for success. In my first
scenario of partition the problem occurs that even with a high success in functioning state,
there is a low economic development with risks in regional instability. The danger is in an end
of multi-ethnicity in Balkans and a trigger to ‘domino effect’ where other secessionist group
starts to demand their own states. It’s a major blown to the political and economic
development in the Balkans and Mitrovica is a place which can trigger the domino effect.
Meanwhile my second scenario predicts integration based on Ahtisaari plan where the goals
for achieving the functioning state and economic development are high but with the risks of
migration of Kosovo Serbs out of Kosovo, different attempt to destroy the agreement and last
but not least political polarization. The, which supplemented the Ahtisaari plan for Mitrovica
changed two municipalities which are operating under one board, while the Brussels
agreement hasn’t mention the creation of the board. The strange actions was also placing
northern Mitrovica in another region what divided the city on their ethnicity. The agreement
was already rejected by the Kosovo Serb with manifestations. They express their anger
toward EU and theirs attempts to control the administration.
After analyzing the two suggested scenario, the integration is better for the citizens and both
governments. Economic development would be higher and there is a smaller change of
escalading the violence, plus it with not fueled other secessionist group to start demands their
own states. Even if the partition scenario would most likely to bring quicker regional stability
for a while, the domino effect would bring war in Balkan region again. The Brussels
agreement isn’t a plan which is going to bring stability. On other hand Kosovo Serbs feel
‘betrayed’ by Serbian government and are unwilling to submit to the rule of Kosovo and with

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the strong emotion and resentment the future of the northern Kosovo and the whole region is
in question.
As a recommendation, I think that integration of northern Kosovo is essential and for now it’s
important to maintain the EULEX and KFOR in the area. Change the education system and
administration with the help of Serbian government. The acceptance of Serbia and its
interference is essential for the coverage high tension of Kosovo Serbs. It’s obvious that with
the majority of Serb in the north of Kosovo, Serbia is going to always be involved, even if
both parties regard this area as ‘no grata’.

5.

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