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Resolving Serbia / Kosovo

The problems between Belgrade and Pristina are a long way from being happily resolved, but a good idea currently in circulation has had an Austrian member of 'the Great and Good' (dread phrase...) attempting to shoot it down.

The best guess as to the approximate ethnic make up of the two states looks something like this, although doubtless matters have changed since because of ethnic cleansing, differential birthrates etc etc:

Anyway, the proposal:

"The idea of exchanging north Mitrovica (the yellow bit in the north of Kosovo) and the Presevo valley (pink bit in the extreme south of Serbia) was put forward earlier this week by US Congressman Dana Rochrabacher. Justifying his proposal, Rochrabacher argued that the exchange would allow the normalisation of relations between Kosovo and Serbia. Northern Mitrovica in Kosovo has a large population of Kosovo Serbs, many of whom live in areas administrated by Serbian institutions. Ethnic Albanians predominate in the southern Serbian town of Presevo and some nearby villages. Ethnic tensions are often high in both areas".

That the Serbs of Mitrovica do not wish to be part of Kosovo is well documented, but Presovo-ites would appear none too keen on Serbia either - "Most settlements in Preševo municipality have an absolute Albanian majority...n 1992, the Albanians of the area organized a referendum in which they voted that Preševo, Medveđa and Bujanovac should join Kosovo. Between 1999 and 2001, an ethnic Albanian guerrilla organization, the "Liberation Army of Preševo, Medveđa and Bujanovac" (UCPMB), was operational in this region with a goal to secede these three municipalities from Yugoslavia and join them to a future independent Kosovo".

And the reaction from Albert Rohan: "Referring to the territorial exchange proposal, Rohan said: “Neither privately nor officially was this idea present [in the status talks]. To me, this is completely new. No one has ever thought about this. It’s a wrong idea,” he said. Rohan added that similar ideas were expounded after the Second World War and are dangerous. “I don’t know how the exchange of territories would begin, because immediately [...] you would have others asking for the same thing."

Presevo is contiguous with Kosovo and Mitrovica with Serbia, and if the denizens of both want out of their respective states, it would seem that the two countries involved would have a basis for negotiation.

A few points:

1 - The borders of Kosovo date back to the creation of an autonomous region within Serbia in 1946, and are not based around the equivalent of the Rhine or the Rio Grande. As such the frontiers are about as ahistoric as those of most nations in Africa, or a little closer to home, the vile pseudo-counties foisted on us by Heath in '74. The previous entity of the same name, from when the Balkans were under the horrors of Ottoman knout bears no resemblance to today's Kosovo.

2 - States are there to serve their peoples, not vice versa.

3 - If Rohan has had a fit of the vapours because he fears that the 13,000 odd Slovenes of southern Carinthia might want out of Austria and into Slovenia, perhaps he should consider the position of the Südtirol, sundered from Austria as part of the Versailles settlement and given to Italy, utterly disregarding the 9th of Woodrow Wilson's 14 points - 'A readjustment of the frontiers of Italy should be effected along clearly recognizable lines of nationality'. There are around 290,000 German speakers in the Südtirol...

4 - If there had been rather more post WW1 plebiscites, along the lines of those in Upper Silesia and Carinthia, we might have found our way to avoiding some of the horrors of the last 90 years.

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Blogger James said... 7:25 pm

That sounds like an interesting proposal. I suspect that Štrpce (and maybe Gora) might wish to join Macedonia in that eventuality.

And it's funny you should mention the German-Polish border after WWI. The myth that still gets peddled is that the language frontier was extremely complex. This map (and its counterpart for Posen Province) show that it was a fairly similar issue to the Kosovo one: the Upper Silesia boundary was drawn at an angle to the language boundary.  



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