Ahtisaari or Bust: the Coming EU Protectorate in Kosovo

Ahtisaari or Bust: the Coming EU Protectorate in Kosovo

The words are remarkable, above all, for the self-assurance they express: "Mr. Ahtisaari and I completed the intellectual part of our assignment when we presented our plan in the spring. Nothing more should be changed in this proposal. It is a complicated work. We only have to accompany the plan and explain it." The speaker is Albert Rohan: the Austrian diplomat and deputy to the U.N. special envoy for Kosovo, Martti Ahtisaari. The plan in question is the "Ahtisaari Plan" for a "supervised independence" of Kosovo. It was the rejection of that plan by Serbia that precipitated the 130 days of whirlwind negotiations that concluded last month in the Austrian resort of Baden: predictably without any agreement. But despite the failure of the status negotiations, Rohan is apparently confident that the Ahtisaari Plan will be implemented anyway. Not even the obvious prospect of a Russian veto of any U.N. Security Council Resolution endorsing the plan can diminish Rohan's sense of certainty. "The Security Council is blocked," Rohan said in an interview last week with the Swiss daily Die Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ), "One can only solve the problem without it."

Albert Rohan's confidence is by no means the product of delusions. For the signs coming out of the European institutions and from the major European powers suggest that the EU will indeed go ahead and implement the Ahtisaari Plan of its own accord: with or without Serbian agreement, with or without U.N. Security Council backing -- and even with or without the unanimous agreement of the EU member states themselves. The latest reports in the European press create the impression that only the small Mediterranean island nation of Cyprus opposes the planned EU initiative: the Cypriot leadership having openly voiced its concern that European support for a unilaterally proclaimed independence of Kosovo could set a dangerous precedent vis-à-vis the Turkish occupied northern half of the island. But, in fact, even such reports minimizing the degree of dissension within the EU can be presumed to be the result of a modus vivendi reached between the established EU powers, which are pushing the Kosovo independence agenda, and the generally smaller, weaker and newer EU states that are opposed. Thus, as reported in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung following a Nov. 19 meeting of the EU foreign ministers in Brussels, the dissenting states are supposed to have agreed to show "constructive restraint" and quietly permit a "coalition of the willing" EU states to proceed with their Kosovo plans.

In reality, several Eastern European member states are either on record as being opposed to Kosovo independence or can be safely presumed to be so to greater or lesser degrees. These include not only Cyprus, but also Romania, Greece, and Slovakia. Like Albert Rohan in his interview with the NZZ, commentators in the European media in general tend to explain the reluctance of these countries by their own fears of ethnic separatist movements. But while such considerations have undoubtedly played an important role, public opinion in countries with large Orthodox Christian majorities like Romania and Greece has in fact been heavily "pro-Serb" from the very start of the Kosovo crisis in the late 1990s.

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