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By M. Bozinovich
Recent International Crisis Group's (ICG) report "Pan-Albanianism: How a Big a Threat To Balkan Stability?" should raise serious concerns not only in Belgrade, but also in Skopje and Athens because it is suggesting to policy makers that a conditional independence of the Serbian Kosovo province is a good thing for the stability of the region. The prospect of further fragmentation of the region hardly helps the cause of the European integration.
In fact, the latest ICG document reeks on Milosevic-style land grab initiatives where one enumerates an endless catalogue of grievances against those from whom one wants to acquire land and then enlists armed thugs to ethnically cleanse the ground and lobbyists like ICG who will overlook it while pressing for urgency in settling the matter, presumably while the thugs are still capable of holding on to the territory.
ICG is frantically urging a fast-track solution in Albanian favor wherever an Albanian lives or else, suggests ICG, blood will spill. For example, on matters in Kosovo ICG says: "[i]f the final status of Kosovo is not resolved within the foreseeable future, the southern Balkans will inevitably see a resumption of conflict." Elsewhere, ICG claims that: "The issue of reform in Macedonia and the Presevo Valley of Southern Serbia is pressing". In Greece ICG urges speed because Albanians hold grievances against Greeks over Cham (East Epirus) region and, siding with Albanians, ICG claims that East Epirus is "a festering wound in Albanian-Greek relations, [that] could easily be used by Albanians" so the matter should be settled "before it gets hijacked".
Of course, to analyze all grievances Albanians hold against Greeks and Slavs in the Balkans that ICG lists in the report would be wondrous just to see how many of them are fictitious. Suffice it to say, however, that there are many, some tangible, others intangible so that in an aggregate, an inexperienced reader gets an impression that the Albanians in the Balkans are festive souls husbanding a refined culture that is under organized armed threat by evil Christians that forcefully took domicile in their pristine midst in order to ravage it.
Says the report in its point number 11: "To Albanian Political Leaders throughout the Balkans: 11. Speak out against extremist politicians and violent groups which seek to undermine the peace agreements of the last five years."
By phrasing the recommendations as messianic commandments in which Greeks, Slavs and EU must accommodate the aggrieved Albanians because they hold everyone under barrel of a gun, ICGs unreasonable prescription that further fragments Balkans is, ironically, a result of a sound premise. Not only is ICG asking a correct question as to the ceiling of the Albanian nationalism in the Balkans but correctly points that it will be tamed over time as the process of European integration expands into the Balkans that will, eventually, establish an open border regime.
"The context of European integration now has the potential to change the political dynamics of the entire region. If and when the states of the region join the European Union, then Albanians will all be part of the same political unit for the first time since 1912, with no economic barriers and complete freedom of movement." writes ICG.
Given the inevitability of the European integration process, why is then ICG in such a rush to reward Albanian violent demands? What difference does it make to anyone whether Kosovo remains a province of Serbia within the context of a European integration to which Serbia is firmly committed?
Impatient allocation of Serbian Kosovo to Albanians now, as advocated by the ICG, would reward Albanian violence and encourage these nationalists to administer another violent salvo on Greece and Macedonia then demand piece of their territory. The sequel to the independence of Kosovo is rather clear: then, as now, ICG will steadfast claim, once again as now, that it is not about Greater Albania and it will once again, as now, demand that Albanian leaders "speak" and do nothing about violence their nationals are perpetrating, then upon Greeks though.
The anti-peace recommendations of this well funded organization that enjoys money from many world's governments is a rather bizarre matter that may easily venture a conspiracy-prone person to believe that certain members of the ICGs Board of Directors may dictate what this think-tank should think. While ICGs Board of Directors does not include a single person from the Balkans it, for example, has a number of members with prior hostile relationship with Serbs - Wesley Clark, Louise Arbour, George Soros - and several Islamic members who may be, ex-ante, sympathetic to the Albanian nationalism because Albanians are Muslims and according to Islam cannot do any wrong.
Leaving conspiracy on the side, ICG report is, however, quick to invoke it when discussing Greater Serbian designs while denying any about Greater Albanian ones. For example, ICG document claims that "The programme for a Greater Serbia – the Nacertanie – was perpetuated in the notorious 1986 Memorandum of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts" although the Albanian Academy of Sciences in 1998 wrote a similar "Platform for the Solution of the National Albanian Question" seeking acquisition of land from 4 other countries. Since then, this institution has presumably had a change of heart and is now supposedly advocating tranquil, bridges-building policies for the Albanians because Paskal Milo wrote a book refuting Greater Albania.
Writes ICG: "Paskal Milo, who served as Albania’s foreign minister from 1997 to 2001, was so dismayed by the number of questions he was asked by foreigners pertaining to the issue of a greater Albania that he felt compelled to write a booklet to refute the notion that a desire for a greater Albania exists in mainstream political circles in Albania, Kosovo or Macedonia."
Since we are all now convinced that Albania is a benign, constructive force for good that does not want to enlarge itself at expense of others, then why are Albanian militants fomenting violence in Serbia and Macedonia demanding their land and are now threatening Greece with the same?
Leaving this matter unanswered, ICG also remains mute at explaining the peculiar tendency of Balkan leaders to delink themselves from the thugs that perpetrate politically complementary violence. For example, an erroneous belief exists that in the 1990s Croatian leadership never supported Ustashi formations led by Paraga when it is transparent that Tudjman armed them and used them to kill Serbs. Similar case is between an alleged relationship of Milosevic and Arkan, Bosnian Muslim leadership and al-Qaeda...
Writes ICG: " Ibrahim Rugova posed... at the end of September 2003, warning that if the independence of Kosovo was not recognised, then sooner rather than later, extremists can be expected to try and form a unified Albanian state."
How does president of Kosovo know what the "extremists" will do unless they are working for him and are therefore obligated to execute what he wills?
The inevitability of the European integration renders Albanian nationalism that seeks to acquire Slavic and Greek territory for itself an antiquated imperial land-grab that will remain a festering wound upon the future of the European Union.
ICG admits that over time, Albanian nationalism will get tamed. One
then is left wondering whether business of the International Crisis Group's
is to promote rather then solve crisis.