Category Archives: Kosovo

Congratulations to Kosovo on the first anniversary of its Independence !

sarah-1166One year ago, I had the chance to be present for the big party launched to celebrate de Declaration of Independence of Kosova! It was a great party that revealed above all a sense of relief that a day for which the people had waited for so long had

finally come. I am very glad I was there and witnessed such a happy event. From all the countries that I’ve visited, Kosova is the one that brings me warmest memories, because never elsewhere have I found a friendliest people.


One year later, I’m also very glad to see that none of the grim predictions about the consequences of the Independence materialized. State building is not an easy process, even less at a moment when the World is facing an economic crisis whose proportions are yet not clear, and many challenges lie ahead, but struggling to overcome huge obstacles is something the albanians know all about. (I’ll write another post about this, hopefully).

I’m posting two photos from my collection of children from Kosova. I’m very grateful for the generosity with which albanian parents allowed me to take their children’s photos. The pride they take on their children is simply moving.



Filed under Kosovo

Some texts on Islamic communities in Bosnia, Sandjak and Kosovo

One of the biggest problems for someone interested in understanding the region of the former Yugoslavia is how to assess the credibility of the sources available. This is so even for researchers and scholars, but even more for average citizens who take some of their limited free time to look through the internet for articles and documents that may help them to go deeper than the small articles on news sites.

I remember the case of a blog in portuguese that I used to read, and whose author I appreciated and regarded as a serious, honest and intelligent person (I still do, but I am now more aware of his prejudices). This author, an academic with a PhD in Physics, was deeply engaged in the fight for secularism and against religious extremism. His blogging was part of a wider civic engagement which I respect and admire. Unfortunately, his concern regarding radical islam made him prone to Serb nationalist propaganda. When Kosova declared its independence, he published a post claiming that Kosova was a country dominated by radical islam, etc, etc, etc.

I was appalled, not so much for the fact that we didn’t agree on the issue of the Independence of Kosova, but because he was using as his source the Serbian nationalist site Serbianna and was accriticaly replicating a bunch of lies. It stroke me that an intelligent and educated person like him did not bother to take some time to evaluate the reliability of the sources he was using.

The fact is that this blog had a good audience and its readers tended to trust the good judgement of its authors regarding sources, even when they didn’t agree with is opinion. I am not mentioning the blog’s name because it is not relevant, this is not a personal attack, I left my opinion on its comment box, this is just an illustrative case of how difficult it is to fight the dominant prejudices regarding the Balkans and its peoples, and how even reasonable, moderate, educated people can be deceived by propaganda.

I decided to write this post because today I clicked on the wordpress tag “Kosovo” and found a blog written by someone who claims to have lived there, and to know a lot about the region, and there was this text about radical Islam in Bosnia. The post was very bad, and on his link list he had serious resources mixed with nationalist propaganda and genocide denial websites. It has happened to me quite often that people who have spent more time in the region that I did uses that as an argument of authority, and it seemed to be the case also with this blogger.

There is a whole body of literature analysing the impact of travellers accounts on the distortion of the image of contryes considered to be ‘exotic’ and the spread of prejudices about their peoples. Belonging myself to a country whose image suffers a lot because of its perceived ‘exotism’, I am aware of this problem and try not to focus too much on my personal impressions when I am researching and writting. It is not the fact that a person is living for years in, say, Serbia, and speaks serbian, that qualifies that person as an authoritive voice about Serbia. One is entitled to have an opinion and share one’s personal impressions, but the problem is that too often the temptation to lecture about it is impossible to resist, especially among bloggers.

So, today when I read this blog I really felt that it is important to fight this kind of obfuscation, by linking some texts that I think are well researched, balanced and reliable. They were written by Juan Carlos Antunez, a spanish military who has pursued studies on Islam, speaks Bosnian and Arab, and lived and worked until recently in Sarajevo as an international functionary.

Not everybody has to be an expert, but when we want to inform ourselves, the choice of sources is something we must take very seriously. However, for non-experts, it is sometimes hard to find texts that don’t demand much previous knowledge. I think the texts that i’m linking are very accessible even for someone who knows nothing on this issue.

In english:

Wahabism in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Published in two parts on the website of the Bosnian Institute. Part One here, Part two here

This paper was written primarily with the goal of providing some basic but accurate information to international functionaries in Bosnia.

An excerpt:


For most International Community (IC) personnel, this is the first time in their careers that they have had to deal with any kind of Islamic issue. Part of the local media, often biased by nationalistic or/and political interests, have tried to present the problem of Wahhabism in B-H as a growing tendency that is a threat to safety and security not only in the country but also in the rest of Europe. These media have used a discourse very similar to that used at the beginning of the 90’s, changing the term ‘Islamic fundamentalism’ by ‘Wahhabism’. On the other hand, media close to the Bosniak establishment have tried to ‘hide’ any evidence of the Wahhabi presence in B-H, or at least to play down the importance of the phenomenon.

Most of the information gathered until now is based on the regurgitation of media or biased spread of rumours without further confirmation. A serious analysis must try to define who is a real follower of Wahhabism, in order to avoid misinterpretations. Only then can proper proposals be developed for stopping the ‘reported’ growing tendency, and reversing it.

This is a paper on the situation of Wahhabism in B-H, intended to represent original thinking about the real picture of the Islamic community in the country and not a ‘regurgitation of open-source wisdom’.


In spanish: published on Athena Intelligence, a spanish research centre on terrorism and armed conflicts, with a particular emphasys on Islamic terrorism.

Presencia yihadista en Bosnia y Herzegovina,Athena Intelligence,  n.2/8 (3/4/2008)

Sandjak: un inestabile región entre Bosnia y Herzegovina y Kosovo, Athena Intelligence, December 2007.

Islamismo radical en Kosovo, Athena Intellingence, n.2/8 (3/4/2008)

Sorry for the non-spanish readers!

I’ll return to this subject and specifically to these articles when I have some time, which will not happen before the new year.


Filed under Bosnia, Islam, Kosovo, Sandjak, Serbia

Portugal recognizes the independence of Kosovo

I am happy and proud!

Better late than never, although we can’t say that q recognition 8 mounths after independence was declared is really a late recognition.

Interestingly, the minister of Foreign Affairs declared that it was the changes in the international system following Russia’s recognition of Ossetia and Abkazia that made the government take such decision. Few countries could have a higher interest in the enhancement of euro-atlantic integration, so it is a very good sign to see portugal returning to the political consensus over integration that has been the key to our democratization process since the 1970s.

I am sending a kiss to my dear friends from Pristina whom I will try to visit soon (now that I don’t feel obliged to return the dicount I got in February for belonging to a country that supports Kosova);

(thanks, Sebanau, for the first hand information, I hadn’t yet have the time to read the news)

Update: here are the links: the news; the rection of support of the main opposition party.

I am travelling so I really don’t have time to go into this, and anyway there is not much to say than to rejoice that those who were oposing recognition, namely the portuguese president, no longer think that way. I am particularly happy that Serbia will no longer use the fact that Portugal opted to be careful in this matter to claim that Portugal was supporting Serbia because of principles (even going to the point where serbian polititians claimed that, unlike Spain that has a direct interest in this; Portugal was obstructing the viability of Kosovo for the sqke of generousity towards Serbia).

For the portuguese reading readers, I strongly recomend Max Spencer Dohner’s post where he deconstructs the ridiculous and qnti-democratic arguments of the parties on the far left, Bloco de Esquerda and Partido Comunista Português (both well represented on parliament). Most of the portuguese lqnguqge readers already read Devaneios Desintericos, Max’s blog but still here’s the link.

Update 2: I am not using my computer but I remembered that I had these photos on a USB drive, so I thought it was a good moment to share them. Kosova is the country in Europe with the youngest population. Thqt gives the country q very nice environment, especially in Prishtina. It is q greqt chqllenge to create jobs for all the young people there, and this is a crutial issue for the develpoment of Kosova. These beautiful children and young adults deserve a bright future, so now the biggest challenge is economical develpoment. This also applies to the Kosovo serbs and other minorities. For them to stay jobs and prospects of a better life are needed.

The first two photos were taken during the Independence party this year;

the one with the kids was taken in April 2007.

Both were taken by me;

( I hope to write q decent post latter because this one is a big mess, but one that reflects my eagerness o share this happy moment with my readers and friends… I hope the phtos may compensate the bad quality of the post)


Filed under EU, Kosovo, Portugal, Serbia


Russia recognized today the independence of Abkazia and South Ossetia.

While negotiations for the settlement of the status of Kosovo were going on, the serbian government based its strategy strategy in the belief that Russia would prevent the independence. Instead of adopting a constructive approach, the serbian government preferred to use the tactic of delay. To delay any settlement and to prolong the negotiations for as long as possible was its tactics, while on the ground it was working towards the reinforcement of parallel structures on the north.

The international community played Serbia’s game for a while, in part because of its lack of will to take decisions, in part because of the bluff that the loss of the cradle of the nation would bring the radicals to power. After a while the bluff didn’t work anymore, and the states supporters of the independence forced Serbia to show its cards. The independence was declared, the centre of Belgrade was vandalized and looted by angry patriots who decided to take revenge by destroying public property and stealing from their co-citizens. Finally, the general elections results confirmed that the bluff had failed. The nationalists lost their last opportunity to seize power in Serbia, and were then betrayed by SPS and even by their allies within BIA.

The new government chose to adopt a new approach, certainly a more clever one, by asking the UN General Assembly to ask the Internacional Court of Justice for an Advisory Opinion regarding the legality of the declaration of Independence and the recognition by other states. Although such move would be devoided of legal consequences, because an advisory opinion is not legally binding, Serbia was thus trying to:

1- Create a situation where those states who haven’t yet recognized Kosovo as an independent state would opt to wait and see, thus making it more difficult for Kosovo to be integrated in the international community, and in particular to prevent its access to international organizations;

2- Present itself as an unselfish defender of International Law, and not merely as a state who is fighting for its national interests. regarding this issue, we might ask, what would serbia do if the ICJ decided that there had been no violation of International Law? Would Serbia then recognize Kosova and find a modus vivendi that allowed the kosovar serbs not to be used as mere instruments of Belgrade? Or would it simply disregard the decision, with the argument that it is not biding anyway???

I very much prefer that Serbia acts to defend its interests and even the International Law by using the international juridical mechanisms at its disposal rather than by burning foreign embassies ( which is, by the way, a violation of International Law), and I am very happy to see that some changes are occurring in Serbia that may be crucial for the establishment of an open society and the marginalization of nationalism.

But the fact is that, regarding Kosova, there was merely a change in tactics, not a change in policy or even strategy. In this sense, Serbia received today a major blow by its major ally, Russia.

By deciding to recognize the independence of Abkazia and South Ossetia, Russia put Serbia in a position where, not only it will be unable to keep claiming to be on the side of those who want to protect the international system by defending its territorial integrity, but also on a situation where a favorable decision of the ICJ will further highlight the scandlous violation of International Law by Russia.

Such move by Russia is hardly surprising. In February 2006, Putin said:

“We need common principles to find a fair solution to these problems for the benefit of all people living in conflict-stricken territories…. If people believe that Kosovo can be granted full independence, why then should we deny it to Abkhazia and South Ossetia?” he said.

“I am not speaking about how Russia will act. However, we know that Turkey, for instance, has recognized the Republic of Northern Cyprus,” Putin added. “I do not want to say that Russia will immediately recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states, but such precedent does exist.”

While those pushing for the independence of Kosova argued that it would be a unique case, a consequence of the desintegration of Yugoslavia and of the major Human Rights violations that the kosovo albanians endured, Putin’s Russia was arguing for the establishment of ‘common principles’.

Thanks to the logic of appeasement that dominated the european democracies, Russia’s position was taken as a serious argument made by a big power that was interested not to upset the current balance of the International System. The argument which the appeasers used was that, if Russia accepted to back Kosova’s independence, that would have serious consequences in its internal order, bearing in mind cases such as Chechenia. It amazes me that anyone could take such argument seriously, because we all know how Russia has dealt with Chechenia.

In fact, what Russia did was to make a self-fulfilling prophecy. While refusing to accept Kosovo as a unique case, it became the first state to take advantage of the ‘precedent’ that Russia itself was claiming it would be set by the Independence of Kosova.

It is interesting to note that Russia was careful enough to use the same line or arguments that NATO used to legitimize the intervention in Kosovo in 1999. We could then ask why then Russia did not act to prevent the genocide of the Chechen people. Leaving that ‘detail’ aside, a major difference emerged, which can help us identify the difference between the arguments based on the duty to protect and humanitarian intervention and the Munich-style line of arguing. NATO did not intervene to protect the citizens of its member states. Neither did those member states distributed passports among the kosovo albanians so that they might latter claim that they wer national citizens of those states

We can thus conclude that, as so many times before, Russia once again used Serbia for its own purposes, and then betrayed it. This is what happens when you have unreliable friends.

On the other hand, we may ask, while Serbia was indeed betrayed, what about the greater-serbian nationalists? This step by Russia favours them, well, it might favour them more if they were in power, if the outcome of the last elections had been slightly different. But we must remember that these people think on a long-term scale. This means that all efforts to reverse the results of genocide in Bosnia must be made, because time works for those seeking partition. Greater-serbian ‘patriots’ don’t mind loosing Kosovo if that means that in twenty years they may grab ‘republika srpska’. Anyway, in their minds, they see the independence of Kosovo as only temporary. It’s sacrifice will be avenged one day, so those sick paranoids think.

However, the fact that they lack the means to accomplish their dream for now represents an unique opportunity to promote the opening of the reversal of the effects of ‘ethnic cleansing’ in Bosnia and to support the progressive forces in Serbia in such a way that, in twenty years time the sick paranoid greater-serbian nationalist will have nothing better to do than to talk for themselves. But this requires a vigour on the part of european democrats that seems to be lacking. In a way, this crisis is the product ofa wider crisis of values within the EU states too, which is reflected in the lack of commitment to support freedom and justice whenever that comes with the slightest cost.

Additional readings:

On Radio Free Europe:

Haw the West been hypnotised by Russia?

Fears that Crimea could be the next flashpoint for conflict with Russia.


Filed under Bosnia, EU, Georgia, International Law, Kosovo, Nationalism, Russia, Serbia, War

Kosova’s Independence and International Law: updated post.

One of my readers provided me with a translation of my text on Kosova’s Independence and International law.

This was very kind of him, and I am very grateful, both for his translation and his interesting comments, to which i still didn’t have time to fully anwser. The text published here is a slighty improved version of the one I published in portuguese in the other post, and the final section, after the photo, is completely new.

In February 17, 2008, before the Parliament of Kosovo, Prime Minister Hashim Thaçi declared the Independence of Kosovo, to which Serbia reacted, as would be expected, by proclaiming such a declaration illegal.

The Declaration of Independence stipulates that Kosovo will be a democratic, secular and multi-ethnic Republic, based on equality and non-discrimination, and explicitly mentions its connection with the Ahtisaari Plan, notably regarding the rights of minorities. If implemented, this will make Kosovo one of states in the world which gives the most protections and privileges to ethnic minorities. The Declaration also formulates the wish that NATO continue to exercise the functions it had under the mandate of Resolution 1244, and accepts the establishment of the International Civil Service an the UE mission as delineated by the Ahtisaari Plan.

The transition towards independence was prepared in co-ordination with the governments of the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and France, as well as the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy of the EU, Javier Solana. Kosovo has already been recognized as an independent state by 41 countries, which thus took their part of the risks implied by such an attitude.

Such risks lie, on the one hand, in the fact that a non-consensual solution necessarily bears negative implications for the stability of the territory, and on the other, in the questionable character of its legitimacy since, according to International law the legality such act depends on the way one interprets Resolution 1244.

The ambiguous way in which it was written allows for two opposite ways of reading it, which in their turn depend on the perspective chosen to interpret it.

If a sovereignist perspective of international relations is privileged, the reference to Serbian sovereignty and the absence of a new UNSC Resolution are strong arguments against recognition.

Yet, if we give prominence to the respect for human rights and the principle of auto-determination of peoples, the perspective will be different.

The Resolution did not specifically define the method for determining the final status of Kosovo, but made an important reference to the need to respect the Final Act of Helsinki [1975].

The sovereignist perspective only invokes the articles related to territorial integrity and the principle of non-interference with the internal affairs of the states. Through that angle, not only the Declaration of independence, but the whole international involvement with the Kosovo issue since 1998 would be illegal.
I have opted not to retrospectively discuss the legality of the Kosovo intervention, since Resolution 1244 has legitimized it, admittedly after the fact, by invoking Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter.

In what regards the Final Act of Helsinki, the Resolution does not quote any article in particular, and that document also enshrines the principle of self-determination, respect for human rights and the protection of minorities. According to that perspective, the recognition of Kosovo independence does not violate Resolution 1244, and thus such an option does not result in any violation of International Law, since the creation of new states does not fall within the competences of the UN.

On that issue Serbia, which considers the recognition of Kosovo illegal in the context of International Law has announced its intention to ask for an advice from the International Court of Justice.

It is my opinion that to interpret the Helsinki Final Act in a strict way, referring to only the articles related to sovereignty is goes against the spirit of this document, and ignores its real meaning and the historical value that it has had in the defense of freedom. In fact, during the final stage of the cold war, eastern Europe dissidents like Vaclav Havel invoked the Helsinki Final Act in their defense. While such strategy didn’t prevent them from suffering the consequences of their defiance of the system, it enable them to make clear to the world that their states had no interests whatsoever to respect the International Law, and specifically the agreements their governments had signed.
While applying the Helsinki Final Act to the case of Kosovo, we can neither ignore the degree of violence to which the people of Kosova was systematically subjected since 1912, and particularly in the period between 1989, when its autonomy status was revoked by Slobodan Milosevic, and 1999.
Despite the serbian government vague promises that it would grant Kosovo a special status defined by the formula more than autonomy, less than independence, the fact that in the recent past its autonomy was taken away cannot be forgotten. Who could guarantee that in the near future, this act would not be repeated?
If we take in account that failing to protect Embassies from being attacked and arsoned is a flagrant violation of International Law, why should we give credibility to the serbian government argument that by refusing to accept the Independence of Kosovo they are not only defending their national interests and territorial integrity, but also defending International Law itself?

As soon as I have some available time, i will post a text about recognition of States and international Law, however, this will have to wait.

To those interested, I reccomend the work by International Law scholar Alain Pellet: here you can find his legal opinion on the issue of self-determination and International Law.

Just for the sake of honesty, I am not a lawyer neither a scholar in International Law. But still i think I am entitled to have my own opinion, because what is at stake here is an issue of freedom and justice, which are subjects that are not the monopoly of Law scholars.

1 Comment

Filed under Freedom, International Law, Kosovo, Serbia

Kosova’s Independence and International Law

Update: here you have an uptaded version of this post totally written in english.

Last month I published my first article as a researcher, in the Portuguese Journal Política Internacional, edited by IPRIS. In 22 pages, I tried to shed some light about the implications of the Independence of Kosova, by providing the reader with an overview of the historical evolution of the relationship that both serbs and albanians had with this territory from the Midlle Ages to the present, and with a brief analysis of what the Myth of Kosovo is about. I also analyze the process that lead to the Declaration of Independence in February 17th 2008 and its possible consequences.

The part that was most appreciated by those who already read it and gave me their opinion was the small section in which I give my perspective on whether International Law is violated by the fact that the Independence of Kosova was declared against the serbian government will and without the support of the United Nations Security Council, or if we are before legitimate and legal act. It is my opinion that Kosova’s Independence does not violate International Law. I base my position on the analysis of the Charter of the United Nations, the Helsinki Final Act, the Rambouillet Agreement and the Security Council resolution 1244

I am providing my online readers with the excerpt of my article where I tackle this issue. For now, it is available only in Portuguese, for which i apologize to my readers who still hadn’t the joy to learn this wonderful language.

Here it goes:


No dia 17 de Fevereiro de 2008, perante o Parlamento do Kosovo, o Primeiro-Ministro Hashim Thaçi proclamou a Independência, ao que a Sérvia reagiu, como seria de esperar, declarando ilegal tal declaração.
A declaração de Independência estipula que o Kosovo será uma republica democrática, secular e multi-étnica baseada na igualdade e na não discriminação, e menciona expressamente a sua vinculação ao Plano Ahtisaari, incluindo nas questões referentes aos direitos das minorias, o que, a concretizar-se, fará do Kosovo um dos estados do Mundo que maior protecção e privilégios confere às minorias étnicas. A Declaração afirma também o desejo de que a NATO continue a exercer as funções para as quais foi mandatada pela Res.1244, e aceita o estabelecimento do Serviço Civil Internacional e da missão da UE tal como delineados pelo Plano Ahtisaari.
A transição para a independência foi preparada em coordenação estreita com os governos dos EUA, Reino Unido, Alemanha e França, bem como com o Alto-Representante da UE para a a PESC, Javier Solana e, em um mês, o Kosovo foi reconhecido como Estado Independente por mais de três dezenas de Estados, que, assim, assumem a sua quota-parte nos riscos que tal atitude necessariamente implica.
Esses riscos consistem, por um lado, no facto de uma solução não consensual ter necessariamente implicações negativas na estabilidade do território, e, por outro, no carácter contestável da sua legitimidade, uma vez que, em termos de Direito Internacionais, a legalidade desta opção fica dependente da interpretação a dar à Res. 1244.

A ambiguidade com que foi redigida permite duas leituras opostas, que, por sua vez, dependem da perspectiva adoptada por quem a interpreta. Se for privilegiada uma visão soberanista das Relações Internacionais, a referência à soberania sérvia e a ausência de uma nova resolução são fortes argumentos contra o reconhecimento da declaração de independência. Mas, se valorizarmos sobretudo o respeito pelos Direitos Humanos e o princípio da auto-determinação dos povos, a perspectiva será diferente.

A resolução não definiu em concreto o método de determinação do estatuto final do Kosovo, mas fez uma importante referência à necessidade de respeitar a Acta Final de Helsínquia. A perspectiva soberanista invoca apenas os artigos relativos à integridade territorial e ao princípio da não ingerência nos assuntos internos dos estados. Por esse prisma, seria ilegal não apenas a declaração de independência, mas todo o envolvimento internacional na questão do Kosovo desde 1998. Não cabe aqui discutir retrospectivamente a legalidade da guerra do Kosovo, uma vez que a Resolução 1244 a legitimou, ainda que a posteriori, ao invocar o Capítulo VII da Carta das Nações Unidas. Quanto à Acta Final de Helsínquia, a resolução não cita nenhum artigo em concreto, e este documento consagra também o princípio à auto-determinação, o respeito pelos Direitos Humanos e a protecção das minorias. Segundo esta perspectiva, o reconhecimento da Independência do Kosovo não viola a Resolução 1244, pelo que tal opção não se traduz numa violação do Direito Internacional, já que a ONU não tem competências para determinar a criação de novos estados. Sobre esta questão, a Sérvia, que considera o reconhecimento do Kosovo ilegal à luz do Direito Internacional anunciou a intenção de solicitar um parecer ao Tribunal Internacional de Justiça.
É inegável que a credibilidade da ONU não sai reforçada deste processo. No entanto, tal deve-se mais aos constrangimentos causados pelas relações de poder no seio do Conselho de Segurança, que não são de todo inéditos, do que à actuação das Nações Unidas no terreno.



Filed under Kosovo, Serbia, Uncategorized

KOSOVO: um mês de Independência.

Passou ontem um mês desde que o Kosovo de tornou um Estado independente. O International Crisis Group publica hoje um relatório descrevendo os acontecimentos ocorridos ao longo do mês.

Ao longo do último mês, deparei-me com um número infindável de disparates escritos sobre o Kososo, alguns dos quais em blogs cujos autores eu tinha em boa conta, mas que, infelizmente, fui obrigada a constatar não saberem distinguir entre fontes de informação credíveis e propaganda. Nunca me dei ao trabalho de comentar ou reagir às inúmeras afirmações reveladoras não só de ignorância, mas também, o que é mais grave, de relativismo moral e mesmo de racismo porque considero que não vale a pena reagir a quente nem discutir com quem não é capaz de procurar encarar os problemas do mundo de forma racional.

A credibilidade do ICG é certamente muito maior do que a deste blog, como também sabem muito mais do que eu os analistas que redigiram o relatório. Por isso, para quem estiver de boa-fé, para quem não se deixa dominar por preconceitos anti-islâmicos e anti-imperialistas, leia-se anti-americanos, aqui está uma boa contribuição para a compreensão do que se está a passar no Kosovo.

O acesso ao documento completo é feito mediante registo, mas é gratuito.

Kosovo’s First Month, ICG, 18/03/2008

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Filed under Freedom, Hope, Kosovo